Power win streak at six after edging Lakewood 2-1
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia showed it can win a game with its bats on Friday, but on Saturday the Power proved it can win the close ones as well.
Starting pitcher Joely Rodriguez allowed one run in the first inning and combined with the bullpen to keep visiting Lakewood off the board for the rest of the game as the Power won 2-1 in front of a packed Appalachian Power Park on "Redneck Night."
Rodriguez improved his record to 4-3 with a five-strikeout, one-walk performance over six innings and was able to get out of early trouble thanks to a spectacular play behind him.
Lakewood's Roman Quinn, a second-round draft pick by Philadelphia in 2011, tested the arm of Power left fielder Raul Fortunato on a somewhat shallow fly ball. Quinn left third just as the ball got to Fortunato, but the throw to West Virginia catcher Francisco Diaz was on the mark and beat Quinn by several feet.
The BlueClaws (19-29) went on to score a run later in the inning, but Power manager Mike Ryan said he thought Fortunato's great play helped calm Rodriguez down after allowing consecutive singles to start the game.
"I think the Fortunato throw from left field settled him down and gave him confidence going into the next innings," Ryan said. "He did an excellent job locating after that and mixing in his changeup. He was throwing breaking balls facing a couple lefties in their lineup and it gave him the confidence to mow them down."
The Power's heralded duo of Josh Bell and Stetson Allie got together to score West Virginia's first run. Bell reached on a two-out double in the bottom of the first and one batter later Allie flipped a ball into right field for an RBI double with Bell scoring.
Another pair of doubles put West Virginia (27-22) ahead in the fifth inning. Right fielder Walker Gourley led off the inning with a two-begger and was brought in one batter later on a Fortunato double and that was all the insurance the Power would need.
Rodriguez and relievers Bryton Trepagnier and Kyle Haynes did not allow a hit after the fourth inning and only three Lakewood players reached base with walks during that span.
"What I liked is how we did everything - the little things - the right way," Ryan said. "We played pretty good defense and we didn't panic in a close game. We did that at the beginning of the year and we don't do that now. We're more comfortable in close games and we have a lot of confidence in our pitching."
Fortunato's throw was not the only defensive gem for the Power. Twice third baseman Eric Wood had to range far to his right to get to balls hit down the line and each time he was able to not only get to the ball but come up firing to get the outs.
Ryan said the team as a whole has been working to improve its defense and that Wood specifically had been working on that play prior to Saturday's game.
"These guys have been working real hard and taking it serious," he said. "That specific play, for some reason, he worked on that today with our infield coordinator [and former Power manager] Gary Green. It's funny how it shows up in a game once you work on it, but these guys take pride in their defense."
West Virginia closes its four-game series with Lakewood at 2:05 p.m. today looking to extend its winning streak to seven games. Shane Watson (3-3, 4.71 ERA) is expected to start for the BlueClaws while the Power's probable pitcher is listed as "To Be Announced" by the team.
Reach Tom Bragg at email@example.com.