The Power's Raul Fortunato dives back to first base on a pickoff throw to Delmarva first baseman Kris Richards.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Power was in need of some ninth-inning magic Wednesday night and Chris Diaz provided the abracadabra.The 22-year-old shortstop sent a two-run double down the left-field line with one out to cap a four-run rally in the final frame and send the Power past the Delmarva Shorebirds 4-3 to sweep the three-game series. A paid crowd of 1,229 attended the South Atlantic League matchup.West Virginia (24-14) remained 11/2 games ahead of the Hagerstown (Md.) Suns in the Northern Division.Diaz, an 11th-round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in last year's June draft, was 0 for 3 in his first three plate appearances Wednesday. The Miami resident worked a 2-0 count with the bases loaded then ripped the next pitch just inside the left-field line for the walk-off hit.The Power players ran out to second base and mobbed Diaz and the celebration carried on to shallow center field before it broke up. The Power's 7-8-9 hitters were hitless in nine at-bats going into the final frame."I was looking for one pitch and one pitch only, a fastball in, and I got it and it just took a hack at it,'' said Diaz, who had his second winning hit in professional ball."We just had some good at-bats [in the ninth inning]. It was just an amazing feeling. We didn't have a good game to begin with and just to end it that way ... this team never gives up. This team is just resilient.''The Power appeared dead in the water, mustering just four hits and no runs through the first eight innings. West Virginia equaled that hit total in the bottom of the ninth as it sent seven batters to the plate.Josh Bell got the Power's mojo going, getting hit with a pitch leading off the ninth. Jordan Steranka followed with a double on a line drive to left field to put runners at second and third with none out.
Eric Wood's infield single just behind first base scored Bell as West Virginia closed to 3-1, and Raul Fortunato sent a RBI bloop single into right as the Power inched within 3-2. After Luis Urena struck out looking for the first out before Kawika Emsley-Pai coaxed a walk on four pitches to load the bases and set up Diaz's heroics."They believe they're in any game,'' Power manager Michael Ryan said of his players. "That's what's so special about this group. This is a type of win that can carry you for a long time to where we can get on another pretty good streak."We feed off our fans' energy. We want to play well for them so they'll keep coming out. The Toastman's great. We always hear him rooting for us. Our fan base has been tremendous and we hope they keep coming out. There's something special going on here.''Wood and Fortunato were the only Power players with multiple hits, each going 2 for 4, while Bell doubled.West Virginia starter John Kuchno allowed three earned runs on five hits in five innings. The Power relief corps, though, continued its stellar work as Clario Perez and Bryton Trepagnier (4-3), who earned the win, combined on four innings of scoreless ball.Delmarva starting pitcher Parker Bridwell tossed four-hit shutout ball over six innings. Joel Hutter banged out three hits for the Shorebirds (12-27) and Wynston Sawyer doubled twice and knocked in three runs.
POWER POINTS: West Virginia won its ninth straight game at the APP and has won 10 of 12 overall. ... The Lakewood BlueClaws (18-21) roll into town for a four-game set beginning at 7:05 tonight. Kyle Haynes will pitch for West Virginia while Nic Hanson will go for the BlueClaws. ... The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders will make an appearance at the game for photos and autographs.Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.