CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Home runs rarely come off the bat of West Virginia Power catcher Francisco Diaz. In a minor league career that began in 2007 with the Philadelphia Phillies’ Venezuelan Summer League team, he had hit just two entering Sunday afternoon’s game versus the Delmarva Shorebirds.
He smacked number three in the fifth inning Sunday, providing the spark that pushed the Power to a 7-0 win over the Shorebirds at Appalachian Power Park. Dovydas Neverauskas struck out two and walked none in five innings for his first win since April 13. Sunday’s win snapped a three-game losing skid for the Power (14-29).
Until Diaz’s homer, Sunday’s game had been a pitching duel between Neverauskas, a 21-year-old Lithuanian who spent three seasons in the Gulf Coast League, and Delmarva’s Hunter Harvey, a 19-year-old who was the 22nd overall pick of the 2013 draft by the Baltimore Orioles and already in the South Atlantic League.
The Power led 1-0 in the fifth thanks to a Reese McGuire sacrifice fly that scored Justin Maffei in the third. Otherwise, Harvey had fanned five. But Diaz cranked a line drive over the right field fence that scored Erich Weiss and sent Harvey to the dugout.
“I was getting a lot of fastballs in,” Diaz said. “Then he started to come with a changeup and my bat just went quick and I saw the ball fly.”
All three of Diaz’s home runs have come in a West Virginia uniform. He also hit one in 2012 and one in 2013.
“That feels really nice, to make contact with that line drive,” he said. “It can be a surprise. I go to home plate hoping to get a good line drive, right up the gap. That was a good one.”
Meanwhile, Neverauskas remained solid. The 6-foot-3 right hander gave up just four hits in his five innings. It was his first appearance of the year where he did not allow a run, earned or unearned.
“It was awesome, getting the feeling to come back and get that ‘W’,” he said. “I stayed simple and played the game right. With my fastball, I was getting ahead in the count and I believed in what I was doing.”
Diaz’s home run opened the floodgates against the Shorebirds (22-20). West Virginia added two runs in the sixth when a Danny Collins fielder’s choice scored Maffei, then a Weiss double to center scored JaCoby Jones. The Power scored another two in the eighth. McGuire’s fielder’s choice scored Maffei, then Collins’ sacrifice fly to center scored Harold Ramirez.
The Shorebirds stranded six in Sunday’s game and went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position.
Sunday’s win was a big boost for the Power, especially in terms of its home-field performance. That victory was West Virginia’s first in Charleston since beating Asheville 3-2 in the second game of an April 16 doubleheader. Diaz said that a decisive win like that could be what the Power needs to overcome its slump.
“That can change,” Diaz said. “We just have to keep working, which we’re doing every day. Keep working hard, and the wins can come our way.”
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.