CHARLESTON, W.Va. — On paper, Sunday afternoon’s series finale between the West Virginia Power and visiting Lexington Legends had the potential to be a pitcher’s duel.
West Virginia right-hander Dovydas Neverauskus entered the contest having allowed just one run over five innings in winning his first outing of the season, while Lexington southpaw Austin Fairchild allowed no hits and an unearned run in his last outing.
Fortunately for the Power that pitching duel never materialized as West Virginia took advantage of Fairchild’s control struggles to jump to an early ten run lead before holding on for a 10-7 win over the Legends at Appalachian Power Park.
West Virginia (4-7) snapped a five-game losing streak with the win. Lexington dropped to 6-5.
The Power pushed across the game’s first run in the first inning when Danny Collins’ sacrifice fly scored leadoff man Justin Maffei for 1-0 lead.
The second inning, however, would be Fairchild’s and the Legends’ undoing.
West Virginia plated nine run in the inning with the help of six walks, a hit batsman and a wild pitch, but the big blow of the inning came on an inside-the-park grand slam by designated hitter Erich Weiss.
Fairchild was chased after his sixth walk of the inning in favor of reliever Luke Farrell. Weiss greeted Farrell with a sinking line drive single to center that initially froze Lexington outfielder Alfredo Escalara. Escalara made a late charge and diving attempt at the ball, but allowed the ball to skip past, untouched, all the way to the centerfield wall, clearing the bases and extending the lead to 10-0.
“That was a tough outing,” Lexington manager Brian Buchanan said of Fairchild. “He threw a great outing his last time out and he came out today and just couldn’t find the zone.
“It was unfortunate because he’s got good stuff, it was just one of those days where he just couldn’t find the zone.”
While Fairchild struggled, Neverauskus (2-0) made it through five innings, surrendering just four hits and a run. Neverauskus has now pitched 10 innings this season, allowing 10 hits, two runs, while striking out nine and walking four.
Getting the big lead helped Neverauskus, who’s fastball tops out in the low to mid 90s, settle down in the contest.
“I think I did pretty well,” said Neverauskus. “I put those zeroes on the board and we got an early lead with that nine run inning and that helped me stay positive and just do my job.”
Power pitching coach Jeff Johnson likes what he’s seen from the 6-foot-3, Lithuanian pitcher through two outings.
“Neverauskus was awesome today,” Johnson said. “He’s been good the first two starts. He had a little learning curve today in knowing what to do when you get a big lead like that. It takes a little experience with that and I thought he lost his focus in the third inning, but they helped us out by swinging at some bad pitches to get him back in it a little it.
“It was a good learning day for him.”
West Virginia, which managed just six hits, was led at the plate by Maffei’s two hits, while right fielder Danny Collins added a double and three RBI.
Lexington made a late run off of Power reliever Jerry Mulderig, who allowed six hits and five runs in three innings of relief, before Will Kendall closed out the ninth in three up, three down fashion.
The Power will begin a three-game home series against Asheville at 7:05 this evening.
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POWER NOTES: West Virginia’s lineup has been decimated by injury this season with its entire projected outfield of Harold Ramirez, Barrett Barnes and Austin Meadows currently out with injuries. The pitching staff has also been affected, with starting pitcher Luis Heredia, the Pirates’ No. 10 ranked prosect according to Baseball America, leaving Saturday’s start after just one batter with a sore shoulder.
The good news for Power and Pirates fans is that Heredia’s injury isn’t expected to be serious.
“He’s OK,” said Johnson of Heredia. “There’s nothing major that we’re worried about. Something just got sore, so they’re going to shut him down a little bit until that goes away.
“I’m sure he’ll miss a start, at least.”
Johnson said he knew something was bothering the hard throwing Heredia before yesterday’s start.
“I knew something was wrong in the bullpen,” said Johnson. “He didn’t look right and he looked terrible. I asked him several times if something was wrong and he kept denying that anything was wrong.
“His first pitch of the game (a fastball) was 71 miles per hour. In his first start he was up to 94, so we knew something was wrong.”