CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Jordan Steranka hit his first professional home run in style Thursday night for the West Virginia Power.The 23-year-old first baseman cranked a solo round-tripper over the right-field fence in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Power its second straight walk-off win, a 3-2 victory over the Lakewood BlueClaws. A paid crowd of 2,750 attended the South Atlantic League matchup at Appalachian Power Park.West Virginia (25-14) remained in first place, 11/2 games ahead of the second-place Hagerstown Suns in the Northern Division.The Power entered the bottom of the ninth tied 2-2 Thursday after reliever Ryan Hafner surrendered two runs in the top of the seventh. West Virginia's Josh Bell, who doubled earlier, led off the ninth by grounding out.
Steranka fell behind 1-2 in the count before unleashing the winning shot.The Power players leaned over the dugout railing in anticipation of the ball leaving the park, then streamed to home plate where another come-from-behind celebration ensued. "I took two fastball strikes,'' said Steranka, who was a 21st-round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in last June's draft and didn't play professionally until this season. "I was kind of shortening [my swing] up a little bit with two strikes and [Lakewood reliever Lino Martinez] hung a curveball. He threw a curveball to Josh with two strikes. I was sitting on that a little bit.'' Chris Diaz's two-run single in the bottom of the ninth sent West Virginia past the Delmarva Shorebirds 4-3 Wednesday night after entering the final frame trailing 3-0."It's awesome,'' said Steranka, a Pittsburgh native and former Penn State standout. "It's kind of special right now. We just pass the torch on to the next guy. Just staying after it and if someone has a bad game, pick them up.''
Power manager Michael Ryan wasn't too pleased with his players after Wednesday's victory, but was happier after Thursday's performance."A little stressful,'' he smiled. "It's not a real good habit to get into to always have to fight back. We stressed to them we're not going to take any innings off. We didn't. We played the full nine innings."There were some physical errors that we can live with. The attitude and effort was there. Just the way this team is wired, they think they're in every game. They're just not going to give up.''Steranka was the only Power player with multiple hits, going 2 for 3 with two RBIs. Steranka's sacrifice fly in the fourth put West Virginia up 1-0, then Eric Wood followed with a run-scoring double.Power starting pitcher Kyle Haynes, who has worked out of the bullpen most of the season, made his third start, tossing four scoreless innings and allowing just two hits. Haynes hasn't given up a run in all three starts. West Virginia reliever Cesar Lopez (2-1) picked up the win with 11/3 innings of clean work.
Chad Carman had an RBI single in the top of the seventh for the BlueClaws (18-22) then scored after back-to-back balks were called on Hafner.POWER POINTS: West Virginia won its 10th straight at the APP. ... The Power finished July with a 16-11 record after beginning the month dropping its first six. ... West Virginia will take on Lakewood at 7:05 tonight in the second game of the four-game series. ... The first 1,000 fans will receive a Toastman Bobblearm. Rod Blackstone, aka the Toastman, has gained fame for throwing slices of toast to the Power crowd after an opposing batter strikes out.Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.