West Virginia dropped a seesaw affair in their opener, 11-9. The Power fell behind, 6-1, in the second inning, as Nick Kingham recorded only five outs. They came back to take a 9-6 lead, but allowed five more runs, with Rinku Singh giving up the last two to take the loss.
Kingham’s main problem was uncharacteristic wildness. He wasn’t missing by a lot, but he opened the game with seven straight balls and fell behind most of the hitters he faced, leaving him in fastball counts constantly. He recovered in the first to fan the #3-4 hitters, but reached his per-inning pitch count in the second. He was hurt by his defense, a problem for the Power all night. Alen Hanson, playing short, let a catchable bloop drop just beyond his glove after changing direction several times in pursuit of it. Kingham still could have been out of the inning undamaged after getting to two outs with the bases loaded, but a hard-hit grounder right at Eric Avila ticked off the third baseman’s glove. The play was ruled a hit — minor league scoring is eccentric at best — costing Kingham five earned runs. Although it was a disappointing outing, Kingham got a number of swings and misses with his fastball and the control problems aren’t typical for him, so it’s nothing to panic over.
It was a good night for many of the West Virginia hitters, although not so much for Josh Bell. In his first pro game he saw a steady diet of changeups and fanned three times, often swinging and missing badly. He did, however, hit a laser into the opposite field corner for a double. Hanson fared better, going 3-4, with a line out accounting for the one out. Hanson homered, doubled and beat out a bunt for a hit. Gregory Polanco had an infield hit, a line drive single, and a towering triple into the right field corner that I’m amazed didn’t go out. Willy Garcia also had three hits, although only one was struck hard. Jose Osuna had just one hit but also had two line drives caught.
Defensive problems plagued the Power. Osuna showed his inexperience at first by botching two weak grounders and muffing a pickoff throw. He seemed to panic on grounders when he was going to need to toss to the pitcher. Hanson was charged with an error when he failed to corral a throw on a steal attempt and Polanco dropped a fly ball at the wall. Polanco also had trouble tracking deep flies in camp, so that problem doesn’t seem to be confined to the difficult skies at Pirate City. On the plus side, second baseman Jodaneli Carvajal had a nice play after Osuna took a pratfall on a grounder, snaring the ball after it caromed off Osuna’s glove and tossing to the pitcher covering first for the out. Hanson made a nice play deep in the hole to get the out at first.
Singh wasn’t throwing hard; I couldn’t get gun readings, but I doubt he threw anything harder than 87 or so. His main problem, though, was control. In fact, it was an issue for all the West Virginia pitchers, the others being organizational lefties Justin Ennis and Robbie Kilcrease.