CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Power begins its final South Atlantic League homestand of the regular season tonight with a lot on the line.
The Power will host the Asheville (N.C.) Tourists at 7:05 p.m. at Appalachian Power Park in the opener of three-game series.
West Virginia is tied with the Hagerstown (Md.) Suns with a 39-24 record for first place in the Northern Division in the season's second half. There are several scenarios, though, in which West Virginia can advance to the postseason even if it doesn't win the division.
If Hagerstown takes the Northern Division title, there will be a wild-card spot available since the Suns also won the first-half championship. That wild card will go to the Northern Division team with the best overall record during both halves of the regular season.
The Hickory (N.C.) Crawdads finished two games better than the Power during the season's first half. West Virginia, though, currently holds a five-game edge in the second half and a three-game lead overall. The Power owns a 76-47 overall record, while the Crawdads are 73-60.
If the Power and Crawdads finish with identical regular-season records, Hickory owns the tiebreaker based on winning the season series 4-3 against West Virginia. The Crawdads and Power don't play again. There are also only seven games left in the regular season heading into tonight's play.
"We're excited,'' said Power first-year manager Michael Ryan, a former Minnesota Twins player. "Any time a game means something and it's big, it's fun.
"Any time that these games mean a lot towards the end of the year puts a little bit of pressure on you to do the little things right and not make mistakes. It's been enjoyable. These players are really enjoying the ride.''
Asheville has given the Power trouble this year, owning an 8-6 mark against West Virginia.
"We know it will be a challenge,'' Ryan said. "A team that plays us tough. They do all three phases well. They can swing the bat, they've got great pitching, the best player in the league in [Rosell] Herrera at shortstop [batting a league-best .348 with 16 home runs and 76 RBIs] and they can steal bases any time they want.
"We're going to have to pitch and play defense and find some small ways to manufacture some runs. It will start with our pitching and keeping them off the board.''
Jason Creasy, a 6-foot-4, 197-pound right-hander who owns a 4-4 record with a 2.80 earned run average, will start for West Virginia and Asheville counters with righty Matt Carasiti (2-9, 8.19 ERA).
The Power just completed seven-game road trip with a 4-3 mark thanks to a 4-3 win at the Savannah (Ga.) SandGnats on Sunday to get back on track. West Virginia lost two games on the trip by one run.
"I like the way we played Sunday,'' said Ryan. "I wasn't real happy with the way we played during the road trip. We let a couple of games get away. Just get back to basics and focus on what's ahead. Hopefully we can carry this momentum into the series [with Asheville].''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.
Upcoming Power scheduleToday: Asheville, 7:05 p.m.Wednesday: Asheville, 7:05 p.m.Thursday: Asheville, 7:05 p.m.Friday: at Lexington, 7:05 p.m.Saturday: at Lexington, 7:05 p.m.Sunday: at Lexington, 1:35 p.m.Monday: at Lexington, 12:05 p.m.
End of regular season