Tourists reign on opening day
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Power offered an opening-night roster that seemed to suggest a productive and fun summer. But the temperature fell to 46 degrees at game time and was accompanied by an annoying mist.
Power bats failed to produce, the air grew colder, the mist turned to an unrelenting drizzle and the crowd of 2,693 generally headed for shelter or the exits.
The rain, however, lacked the intensity to suspend play, and the Asheville Tourists handled the conditions reasonably well, stifling the Power bats and scoring twice in the fifth inning and once in the sixth for a 3-0 victory Thursday night at Appalachian Power Park.
A fun summer would have to wait. The conditions hardly fazed Asheville right-hander Eddie Butler, a first-round pick in last year's draft who pitched three seasons at Radford University in Virginia's western mountains.
"I'm used to it playing at Radford,'' said Butler, a Chesapeake, Va., native. "You have a lot of chilly days early in the season. You have high winds and it's rainy. It's not the greatest place to play because of the weather. It was a like a home-field advantage tonight.''
Hitting 95 mph on the radar gun, Butler allowed just one hit and a walk and struck out seven in 51/3 innings in picking up the victory for defending South Atlantic League champions.
"I had some fun out there,'' Butler added. "I pounded the strikezone, got some ground balls and the guys made some plays behind me.''
"That guy's tough to hit on any night,'' said Power manager Michael Ryan. "The 95-mph radar reading may have shortchanged Butler,'' Ryan added.
"It looked a little harder to me to be honest with you,'' said Ryan, a five-year big-league outfielder. "With his downward plane he was very difficult to hit. That guy has a very bright future. I was very impressed with him.''
The Power's most noticeable shortcoming, at least on this night, was an inability to make contact. Tourist pitchers combined to strikeout 14.
"We chased a little bit,'' said Ryan. "You have to tip your hat to Ashville's pitching. They did a good job of attacking the zone.''
Three Power pitchers, Joely Rodriguez, Jason Creasy and Pat Ludwick, combined for 12 strikeouts on a night that favored the pitchers.
"You don't want to hit,'' said Butler. "It doesn't feel good, especially if you don't barrel it up.''
The Power roster includes five players in Baseball America's Top 30 Pittsburgh prospects and nine who contributed to last year's Gulf Coast League championship.
The Power and Tourists will play at 7:05 tonight and Saturday and at 2:05 p.m. Sunday. ... Memorabilia and trinket salesman extraordinaire Wheeler Bob began his 41st consecutive season on the job Thursday. He has spent 38 of those years at Watt Powell Park and Appalachian Power Park and three at Richmond's Parker Field in 1984-86 when Charleston did not have a team.