Josh Bell went 3 for 4 with a late home run that provided some breathing room in West Virginia’s 7-3 win against visiting Greenville in the first game of a doubleheader at Appalachian Power Park, but it was catcher Francisco Diaz that knocked in three runs prior to that to give the Power an early lead that it managed to hang on to.
Diaz singled in the third to drive in two and then another single in the fifth inning brought Bell in to score.
“The thing with Frankie is every time he’s in the lineup he does something the help us win the game,” West Virginia manager Michael Ryan said. “That’s a special type of player. he takes his job very serious as far as calling the game and what he does behind the plate. The three big RBIs today were huge. He’s just a baseball player, man. He loves being at the field, at the stadium and takes pride in what he does.”
Bell finished the day a combined 3 for 7 with the home run, two RBIs and four runs scored.
“(Bell) is working his tail off in the cage and working extremely hard on his defense as far as his jumps and trusting what he can do on the field,” Ryan said. “He’s running the bases extremely well. He’s just playing baseball.”
Of course, hitting in front of Stetson Allie has not hurt Bell’s production either.
“I’m sure that helps a little bit,” Ryan said.
The reporters jinx was in play in West Virginia’s second game.
The Power led Greenville 7-0 with two outs in the top of the seventh inning, so I made my way out of the Appalachian Power Park press box and down near the field so I could easily slip into the clubhouse following the game.
Half an hour and six runs later, West Virginia managed to hang on by the slimmest of margins for a 7-6 win.
“It was one pitch from (Josh Smith) that let that affect the rest of his outing,” Ryan said of the near collapse in the final inning. “Going from thinking that he should have been out of it to not thinking that he still has some work to be done. I didn’t like everyone’s body language afterwards.”
Joely Rodriguez had another strong outing for West Virginia. He allowed Betts to reach base in the first inning but promptly struck out the next three batters he faced and settled in for a solid performance after that. When he was finished, Rodriguez had thrown six innings and allowed no runs on four hits with five strikeouts and no walks. Ryan said it was the sinker and two-seam fastball that were working for him on Wednesday.
“Joely with his start today really saved us not just for tomorrow but for the next two days by saving our bullpen,” Ryan said. “He set us up nice for this road trip. (The first inning) carried him to be able to really spot his two-seamer and trust it.”
Wednesday’s two wins gave the Power seven wins in its last eight game and a four-game sweep of Greenville. West Virginia, from both the wins and losses standpoint and the player development standpoint, started the season slowly in April but have turned things around on both fronts so far in May.
“We want to pitch it, we want to pick it up and we want to run the bases. That’s what we’ve been doing and it’s a recipe for success,” Ryan said. “We’re starting to play better in close games. We’re not putting pressure on our defense. The nervousness is going away. We’re very aggressive on the bases and we’re getting outstanding pitching which is the story of what we’re going to be.”