First-place Power wraps up homestand with walk-off win
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It was late Sunday afternoon, and the Power players and coaching staff faced an eight-hour bus ride that would deposit them in Salisbury, Md., at about 3 a.m.
Not that lengthy bus rides are anything new in baseball, but they're a bit more challenging in August, especially for a collection of players feeling the late-season fatigue of a 140-game schedule for the first time.
Sitting in his office, Power manager Mike Ryan didn't seem to be sweating it. His team's recent run of on-the-field attainment, he noted, should make the trip much more comfortable.
"It might go by fast,'' he said with a smile. "We'll get to enjoy some movies. We'll stop and eat.''
The division-leading Power picked up its seventh straight victory - and 13th in a row at home - on Sunday at Appalachian Power Park, scoring a gift run in the ninth to defeat the Lakewood BlueClaws 5-4.
The victory was the Power's 21st in the last 27 games and moved the team two-and-a-half games ahead of second-place Hagerstown in the Sally League's Northern Division. Twenty-eight games remain in the regular season.
Power third baseman Eric Wood, who delivered two hits and two RBIs Sunday, likewise didn't seem to fret the strain of a long season or the prospect of another bus ride.
"Because we're winning,'' said Wood, "we're not really thinking about being tired and being fatigued. We just want to play for our teammates.''
Added shortstop Max Moroff, "You're just rolling. You're not thinking about your body. You just keep thinking about winning and doing well. It's definitely tiring. You just have to take care of your body and do extra stretching and extra stuff like that to help you in the long run.''
After surviving a perilous top of the ninth, the Power loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning on Kawika Emsley-Pai's walk, Jonathan Schwind's sacrifice bunt, Moroff's walk and Walker Gourley's infield single to load the bases.
Josh Bell then hit a hard grounder that BlueClaw shortstop Angelo Mora fielded cleanly near second and threw to second baseman Alejandro Villalobos. But in his haste, Villalobos dropped the ball, allowing Emsley-Pai to score and setting off a Power celebration near first base.
Ryan thought Bell's grounder would be a double play that would end the inning and bring extra innings.
"It wasn't that difficult of a play,'' said the Power manager. "I thought [Villalobos] tried to be too cute with it maybe, and he rushed that play.''
In the top of the ninth, Power reliever Jhondaniel Medina walked the bases loaded with two outs but induced Villalobos to fly to left on a 3-2 pitch.
The possibility of a division title and playoff berth, said Ryan, should help alleviate any fatigue in the season's final month.
"It brings some adrenaline and different energy, knowing that these games mean something instead of being 25 or 30 games out,'' he said. "When these games mean something, you have to be on top of your game mentally and physically. You just have to trick yourself mentally into thinking you're not tired and battle through nine innings and do it again the next day.''
POWER POINTS: The Power will open a three-game series in Delmarva tonight and visit Lakewood for a four-game series before returning to APP Aug. 13 to begin a seven-game home stand. ... The Power survived Sunday despite three errors and six walks. ... The Power is 28-14 in the second half and 65-47 overall. ... Jameson Taillon, who pitched for the Power in 2011, was promoted from AA Altoona to AAA Indianapolis on Friday. ... In its 13-game home winning streak, the Power has outscored the opposition 65-27. ... A paid crowd of 1,468 attended Sunday.
Reach Mike Whiteford at email@example.com.