9th-inning homers sink Power
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As well as the West Virginia Power has played in the second of half of the South Atlantic League season, starting pitcher Kyle Haynes just can't seem to win.
With 39 appearances this season including six starts, his ERA is a miniscule 2.24, yet his record stands at 1-3.
Blame it on a full moon, a fluke, or a couple of bad pitches from reliever Cesar Lopez (2-2), but Haynes' efforts were left unrewarded again on Monday at Appalachian Power Park.
Down to its final two strikes in the ninth inning, Hickory rallied behind back-to-back home runs by Lewis Brinson and David Lyon, Brinson's a go-ahead two-run shot to left and Lyon's a solo blast to right, to stun the West Virginia Power and a crowd of 1,903 in a 5-3 Crawdads win.
In addition to spoiling Haynes' night, the late loss also hurt the Power (35-21) in the standings.
Hagerstown split a home doubleheader against Asheville on Monday, meaning West Virginia fell a half game behind the first-place Suns.
Should first-half champion Hagerstown win the second half as well, a playoff berth will be given to the second-best overall record in both halves. West Virginia is still ahead in that race, but the Crawdads shrank that lead to 11/2 games on Monday.
Still, Power manager Mike Ryan is not about to panic or pout over Monday's loss or the series split with Hickory.
"Big deal," Ryan said. "It's just like the series didn't happen, two and two. We're in the same situation we were four days ago so we're just going to continue on the road and play our game."
Both of Hickory's deciding home runs came long after Haynes had exited the game.
Bryton Trepagnier threw a scoreless eighth and Lopez was well on his way to doing the same, but paid for a couple of mistakes in the worst of times.
"[The home run] put us in the lead late in the game against the team we're trying to catch to go to the playoffs - it was a big home run," Brinson said. "They've been playing good baseball, we've been playing good baseball - we're just trying to end this season right and end it off in first place."
Haynes was remarkably efficient in a season-best seven innings, yielding just a pair of runs (one earned) on three hits and a walk while striking out seven.
"That was our best pitching performance of the year," Ryan said. "The way he attacked the zone, the way he located his fastball - he mixed in his off-speed to keep them off balance, he kept a powerful club off the board for a long time. I'm glad he had that outing. He's growing confidence with each one and I can't wait to see his next one."
But it was all for naught as Hickory starter Paul Schwendel matched Haynes step-for-step, as the two engaged in a pitching duel that saw them each allow just one hit through the first four innings. The game's first five innings were in the books in an hour.
Schwendel lasted 61/3 innings and gave up two earned runs on four hits and two walks while striking out five.
The second of his earned runs came on a game-tying RBI single from Raul Fortunato in the seventh inning after Schwendel was pulled for releiver Jose Leclerc. Leclerc later gave up an RBI single to No. 9 hitter Chris Diaz to give the Power a 3-2 lead.
Diaz ended the game with a pair of RBI knocks to lead the Power offense.
Brinson and the Crawdads (32-25) will play three at Asheville and are pretty glad to be leaving Charleston and what he said has been a pretty raucous crowd all weekend.
But he added it was nice to exact some late and sweet revenge on the West Virginia faithful, including Rod "Toastman" Blackstone.
"That guy's got his stuff together over there, he toasts guys all the time," Brinson said. "I've got to hand it to him, but it was nice to shut them up for once. With Lyon hitting that home run after mine - just shutting everybody up for once. They've been getting after us pretty good this whole series so it was nice to shut them up."
There's no rest for the weary as West Virginia will open a three-game set at Charleston (S.C.) today and will follow that series with four games at Savannah.
The Power will send right-hander John Kuchno (8-5, 4.01 ERA) to the mound for tonight's game, which is scheduled to start at 7:05. Righty Luis Severino (1-1) will take the hill for the RiverDogs.
Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.