The Power's Junior Sosa (28) steals second base as the ball gets away from Savannah's Luis Nieves.
Those out of school for Wednesday's Grand Slam Kids Day at Appalachian Power Park weren't out for long.West Virginia Power left-handed pitcher Zac Fuesser, a 34th-round 2009 draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates, threw six innings of four-hit, one-run ball and lifted the hosts to a 2-1 victory over the Savannah Sand Gnats."What a great job Fuesser did," said Power manager Rick Sofield. "It goes back to starting pitching. When the fellas are in the game, and don't have to press and play uphill all the time, it makes it easier to win."When your pitching and defense falls into place, things go smooth. There's no secret to it. It's been going on for years."
West Virginia has been playing uphill for much of the season. It began the game 5-13 and in last place in the Northern Division of the South Atlantic League. And pitching has been the problem. Prior to Wednesday's game, the Power was last in the league with a 6.19 team earned run average.Fuesser, though, combined with relievers Trent Stevenson and Jordan Cooper to give up a combined five hits and no earned runs. Cooper received the win and moved to 1-1 when the Power scored its second run in the eighth."This was a big game for me," Fuesser said. "This is probably what I needed ... And for the team, this was huge. It was very big. This is one thing we needed."Fuesser got off to a somewhat slow start in the first. He threw nine pitches to leadoff hitter Tillman Pugh. Then Gnats second baseman T.J. Rivera singled and reached second on an errant throwover by Fuesser. A batter later, Savannah's Aderlin Rodriguez ripped an RBI single to center, giving the Gnats a 1-0 lead.But the Power responded in the bottom of the inning when second baseman Jordaneli Carvajal walked, stole second and scored on a Jose Osuna single to left to tie the score.
In the eighth, Power rightfielder Junior Sosa, the No. 9 hitter, reached on a looping single. He seemed caught in a rundown on a pickoff attempt, but the throw from Gnats first baseman Brian Harrison went into center field, sending Sosa to third.Power designated hitter Alen Hanson then collected the game-winning RBI with a bloop to short left field.The Power had but five hits, two by Hanson, but fell back on the pitching."I pretty much had everything working for me today," said Fuesser, who relies on a change-up and spots a fastball. "I had that quick, fast tempo, which kept them on their toes. I mixed all my pitches in there. Got them off-balance. Had their wheels turning in their heads. They didn't know what I was going to throw."He finished with eight strikeouts. Cooper finished with back-to-back 1-2-3 innings."He has quality stuff," Sofield said of Cooper. "He's down in the zone. He's crisp with a sinker-slider ... When the game's on the line he likes the ball in his hands - and I like giving it to him."
The Power will host the 11-9 Sand Gnats today at 7:05 p.m.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.