West Virginia squandered an early opportunity but escaped Appalachian Power Park with a win against visiting Greensboro in the most exciting of ways.
The Power managed just one run from a bases loaded, no outs situation in the first inning but got a walk off home run from third baseman Eric Wood for its 11th win of the season.
Wood and Dilson Herrera each had three hits in the game (and were two of only four West Virginia players with hits along with Stetson Allie and Walker Gourley) but none were bigger than Wood’s blast to end the ballgame.
For his trouble Wood received a giant foam bat from West Virginia hitting coach Orlando Merced and a towel full of shaving cream to the face from teammates outside the Power clubhouse
West Virginia had trailed for most of the game and prior to the heroics at the end it appeared the team was going to not only lose the game but also saw outfield prospect Barrett Barnes leave the game in the seventh inning with a hamstring injury.
Barnes hit a ground ball to third base and hustled to first on what at first glance appeared as if it would be a close play. Greensboro third baseman Matt Jungel mishandled the ball and did not make a throw while Barnes came up limping.
“We don’t know the extent of it yet,” West Virginia manager Michael Ryan said after the game. “(Barnes) will not be playing tomorrow. We’ll see how it reacts as far as the length of time he’ll be out with soreness and bruising and stuff like that.”
Barnes has made nine appearances for the Power with just nine hits and eight strikeouts in 38 at-bats.
Joely Rodriguez left the game with the Power trailing 2-1 but pitched a solid six innings for West Virginia. Rodriguez allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits with six strikeouts and no walks for his second consecutive productive start. Last Thursday against Charleston (S.C.) Rodriguez got the win after allowing no runs on four hits in 5.1 innings.
“One thing I’ve noticed is what he’s doing in between starts,” Ryan said. “He had a really good start last time out in Charleston and the work he’s putting in in-between starts is really showing and for him to have results in the game with the way he’s preparing is key for him.”
Josh Smith and Jason Creasy combined to pitch the seventh, eight and ninth innings Wednesday Smith allowed a run in the eighth while Creasy got his second win of the season as the pitcher of record when Wood hit his ninth inning home run.
The West Virginia bullpen has been among the worst in the South Atlantic League so far this season but has started to show signs of improvement in recent games.
“We pitched the ball pretty good in Savannah and our bullpen is starting to come together as far as knowing each others roles and knowing what they can do and what they can’t do out there,” Ryan said. “(Pitching coach Jeff Johnson) has been doing a heck of a job with those guys.”
West Virginia’s game on Friday is scheduled for a 10:30 a.m. start to allow for the first game of West Virginia University’s three-game series with Oklahoma at Appalachian Power Park scheduled for that evening. With the Sooners in town there could be an opportunity for Pirates fans in the Mountain State to get a first-hand look at pitcher Jonathan Gray, who we have looked at in our series on potential players Pittsburgh might draft this season.
Gray has been the Friday starter for the Sooners and is likely to take the mound against the Mountaineers in Charleston.