Hagerstown's Stephen Perez scores in the third inning as Power starter Tyler Glasnow covers home plate.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The prospect of a league title is not the only allure of playoff baseball.Dealing with the added pressure likely contributes to the vital minor league development process and should be a down-the-road benefit."Pressure is always good,'' said Hagerstown centerfielder Isaac Ballou, who played four seasons at Marshall. "They say that pressure turns coal into diamonds, and without pressure, you can't find out what you're about. So coming in here in front of 5,000 fans is a cool experience.''In the first South Atlantic League postseason game at Appalachian Power Park in five years, the Hagerstown Suns took a healthy leg up on the Power by capturing the first game of the best-of-three Northern Division playoff, rallying for four runs in the third inning in a 6-1 victory on Wednesday night.After a travel day today, the series moves to Hagerstown for game two on Friday and, if necessary, the deciding game on Saturday."This game is crucial because it decides who's in the driver's seat, and it takes a little pressure off going into our homestand,'' said Austin Voth, the Suns' winning pitcher, who joined the team 10 days ago. "It was big.''A ticket giveaway to one and all brought out 4,839 fans, who asserted their noisy and supportive presence beginning with the pregame player introductions and continuing throughout. Adding to the ballpark festiveness were red-white-and-blue bunting and the presence of four umpires, instead of the customary two.Contributing largely to the Power's troubles was a chaotic third inning, in which Power starter Tyler Glasnow yielded three hits, most notably Wander Ramos' bases-loaded double to the left-center gap that brought home two runs. Also in the inning, Glasnow walked two, including one with the bases loaded, hit a batter and wild pitched another run home.
The inning started with Pedro Severino's broken-bat single to right, the first hit allowed by Glasnow in the last 13 innings. Indeed, Glasnow had recently been voted the SAL's top right-handed pitcher, an honor based considerably on his 2.18 earned run average and 164 strikeouts in 1111/3 innings.The Suns led 4-0 after three and added single runs in the sixth and seventh. The Power made little use of eight walks but scored in the sixth when Josh Bell walked and came home on Raul Fortunato's double into the left-field corner. In the eighth, the Power loaded the bases on three walks but failed to score. The Power collected just five hits.Glasnow, who breezed through the first two innings, allowed three hits, four earned runs and three walks and struck out five in 22/3 innings. Voth surrendered three hits, no runs and two walks in five innings to pick up the victory. "We came in here and talked about taking care of business and going back to Hagerstown and taking care of business,'' said Ballou. "We have part one done.''POWER POINTS: The best-of-five championship series will begin Monday at the home of the Northern Division winner. Savannah and Augusta are playing in the Southern Division title series. Power right-hander John Kuchno (9-5, 4.01) will pitch Friday. ... Ballou is from Smithfield, Va., and played for Marshall from 2010 through this season. He was a first-team All-Conference USA pick this year. His double off the right-field wall in the sixth inning contributed to a run. ... The ticket giveaway was reminiscent of Charleston Wheelers owner Dennis Bastien, who operated the team from 1987 through 1993 and, depending on his whim, would occasionally distribute free and greatly discounted tickets to bolster the Watt Powell Park crowds.Reach Mike Whiteford at firstname.lastname@example.org.