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Power baseball: Homestand not kind to West Virginia

By Chris Wade, Sportswriter
CRAIG CUNNINGHAM/DAILY MAIL
West Virginia Power shortstop Chris Diaz makes the throw to first over Hagerstown’s Wilmer Difo in the fourth inning Sunday at Appalachian Power Park.

The phrase home is where the heart is certainly hasn’t applied to the West Virginia Power recently.

The Power lost its seventh consecutive game — all at home — Sunday, falling to Hagerstown 5-2 at Appalachian Power Park in a result that droped West Virginia’s record to 7-15.

The Power finished the homestand winless after a three-game sweep by Kannapolis and another three-game sweep by the South Atlantic League Northern Division-leading Suns (18-5).

Power manager Michael Ryan was less that pleased, and conducted a team meeting after the latest loss that lasted more than an hour.

“We didn’t win a game, it’s very frustrating,” Ryan said. “We got our tails kicked and we have to admit it. There isn’t much to say. We have to look ourselves in the mirror and get better.”

Losing seven games in a row is hard enough, Ryan said, but doing so at home made it even tougher on the team.

“We love playing in front of our fans,” Ryan said. “We love Charleston. I enjoy being here. We just have to play better at home.”

The Power will get a day off on Monday before starting a nine-day road trip. West Virginia will play five games in three days at Kannapolis, including doubleheaders on Tuesday and Wednesday to make up for postponements on April 19 and 20.

Ryan hopes the time away from being at home might refocus the Power players.

“Maybe this was good for us,” Ryan said. “We will see when we come back from the road trip. It could be a good thing, or it could go in the other direction, too. We will see how they react.

Isaac Ballou, a former Marshall standout and member of the Hagerstown Suns, was happy to make a triumphant return to the same park he played on as a member of the Herd baseball team for four years, and get the sweep.

“It makes it very sweet to come back to this ballpark, in a great atmosphere, and get wins,” Ballou said. “It means a lot. It is very nice. Last year we got these guys in the playoffs. We wanted to roll with the momentum.”

Hagerstown jumped on the Power in the first inning, plating a run to take a 1-0 lead. Ballou led off with a double, and a RBI double by John Wooten scored the

game’s first run.

The Suns tacked on another one in the second inning to take a 2-0 lead when with the bases loaded, Hagerstown second basemen Wilmer Difo singled to drive in Willie Medina, who had walked to lead off the inning.

Things could have been much worse for the Power, though, as starting pitcher Shane Carle got out a bases-loaded, no-out jam to only allow the one run.

After the first three Hagerstown hitters reached base on a walk, a hit batsman, and another walk, followed by the RBI single from Difo, Carle retired the next three Suns on a fly out, strikeout, and groundout to first base to end the threat.

After the Power wriggled out of further trouble in the second inning, it took advantage of the momentum, cutting the Hagerstown lead in half in the bottom half.

After the first two Power batters were retired, Francisco Diaz singled, Chris Diaz walked and Candon Myles - the No. 9 hitter - hit a RBI single to make the score 2-1 in favor of the Suns.

The Power were able to tie the game up in the bottom of the fifth inning at two on a RBI groundout by Erich Weiss with one out to score Candon Myles, who led off the inning with a triple.

The Suns retook the lead in the top of the sixth inning, scoring three runs to take a 5-2 lead. Craig Manuel led off with a single, advanced to second on a sacrice bunt, and went to third on a single from Wilman Rodriguez.

Ballou hit a shot to the deepest part of the ballpark in straightaway center field but Justin Maffei caught it at the wall for a sacrifice fly, scoring Manuel, for what turned out to be the game-winning run.

With two outs, Hagerstown added two more runs, getting a pair of clutch RBI hits, one from Difo on a double, and a single from Drew Ward to increase its lead to 5-2.

Ballou knew he had hit it well, and despite not being a homer, he was happy to be able to contribute for the team, and get the game winner.

“I don’t hit many home runs but when i hit it, i saw the center fielder move back on it,” Ballou said. “I was thinking, maybe, maybe. If the wind was blowing, it might have went out, but I am happy and blessed to get the job done, and that’s all that matters.”

Tempers flared in seventh inning after Maffei was hit by a pitch by Hagerstown’s Wander Suero. Home plate umpire Tucker Benneville issued a warning to both teams, which upset the Suns dugout. Four Hagerstown players had been hit by Power pitchers throughout the game before Maffei was hit and the warning was issued, causing a few loud, choice words toward Benneville by the Suns coaching staff.

Ballou had a pair of hits and Difo collected three hits and drove in two runs for Hagerstown. Suero got the win, pitching 4 and 2/3 innings of shutout relief, only allowing one hit, lowering his earned run average to 1.25.

In getting out-hit 11-4 as a team, Myles was the only Power player with multiple hits, collecting half of them with two. He drove in one of the runs, along with Weiss.


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