CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It didn't take long for West Virginia Power manager Mike Ryan to utter a two-word phrase that he held off on mentioning to his players prior to Saturday's night's contest - "big game."The good news for Power fans is that Ryan didn't have to mention it.In what was perhaps the most important game of the season thus far in terms of the South Atlantic League Northern Division standings, the Power's Orlando Castro threw an absolute gem and combined with two relievers to deliver a two-hit shutout as West Virginia earned a 1-0 win over division-leading Hagerstown at Appalachian Power Park.A healthy crowd of 4,042 was on hand as the Power dispatched the Suns in a neat and tidy 2:05.
After falling to the Suns in the first game of the series on Friday, the Power's win on Saturday brought the team back within a game of first place in the three-team divisional race. Hickory took over the top spot with Hagerstown sitting in second a half-game back.The first-half winner of each division gets a playoff spot at the end of the year.Despite starting the season 1-6 and 10-15, West Virginia (33-28) has a real chance to accomplish something special over the next eight games."It just shows you the work they put in," Ryan said. "To get off to such a slow start to where it looked like it was going to be a long first half, they never gave up. That's how they play. They think that they're in every game. The work they put in every day, the results that are showing in the games - it just shows you how much they want it."And they're being rewarded by being in the mix of this first half and they're going to continue to work hard. They can see that there's a good opportunity here for us to make some noise and they thrive on that."Castro has been thriving all season and continued a stellar first half of work on Saturday.His final line was nothing short of sparkling - seven innings, no runs, no walks, two hits, five strikeouts - and he was in complete control of the game's pace, working fast and wasting no time."The key for him was to pitch [inside]," Ryan said. "He pitched in and it made his other two pitches that much better. He put on a clinic against a very good team. They have great approaches, he just did a spectacular job. In a big game, he accepted the challenge and he wanted the ball."Castro (7-3, 1.83 ERA) has been quite the left-handed complement at the top of the Power's rotation, using pinpoint location with his 90-mph fastball and pitching to contact, which adds quite the contrast to teammate Tyler Glasnow's power right arm.Both will appear in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game on June 18 in Lakewood, N.J., and both have been instrumental in the Power's successful first half.Glasnow (3-1, 3.21) will pitch in the series finale today at 2:05 p.m.
Outfielder Walker Gourley will join Castro and Glasnow in the all-star game and had two of the Power's seven hits on Saturday and scored the game's only run.After reaching on a single, Gourley showed great hustle in going from first to third base on a sacrifice bunt, barely beating out the tag.After Josh Bell hit an infield single and Stetson Allie struck out, third baseman Eric Wood placed a line drive inches inside the right field line for a double and an RBI.Gourley upped his season batting average to .331, has a six-game hit streak, and has now reached base safely in 19 consecutive contests.Ryan Hafner pitched a perfect eighth inning and Kyle Haynes tossed a perfect ninth for his sixth save of the season. In total, Power pitching faced two batters over the minimum.Bell also had a pair of hits for West Virginia and Wood's double was the only extra-base hit of the game.
Hagerstown will counter Glasnow with righty Ivan Pineyro (4-3, 3.33) in today's rubber match.West Virginia will begin a seven-game roadtrip with three at Delmarva beginning at 7:05 p.m. on Monday. Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948 or email@example.com.