Pretty much all discussion about production in the West Virginia Power lineup starts with the names of shortstop Alen Hanson and outfielder Gregory Polanco. Jose Osuna, however, might need to be added to that list.
Osuna, who primarily plays first base for West Virginia, had a historic July for the Power. His nine home runs in the month of July tied a club record previously set by Mat Gamel (May 2006), Stephen Chapman (July 2007) and Matt LaPorta (August 2007) for the most by a player in a single month.
Entering Wednesday’s contest with Hagerstown, Osuna was riding a ten-game hit streak which came to an end after an 0-for-2 outing (though he did collect an RBI on a sacrifice fly, walk and score a run). West Virginia manager Rick Sofield said while Hanson and Polanco give the Power some pop from the left side of the plate, Osuna was doing the same thing for the club from the right side.
“(Osuna) has had a great month,” Sofield said. “He’s been a factor all month on the road. He hit nine home runs and he’s got to have 20 RBIs. He’s had a great go of it.”
Dan Gamache has also been playing good baseball for West Virginia. The 22-year old Auburn University product has played a solid second base for the Power and is hitting .333 in his last ten games. Sofield said with the heart of his lineup producing the way it has in recent weeks it’s easy to see why West Virginia has found more success than in the early months of the season.
“That middle right now – Polanco, Osuna and Gamache – are hard to contend with,” he said. “Gamache is swinging the bat as good as anybody. When the middle is swinging good you’ve always got a good shot.”
If you watched West Virginia in the first half of the season, the next sentence you read might come as a shock. The Power are in first place in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division. Adding to that surprise is the fact that West Virginia has been getting it done on the road – a place where the club set the league record for fewest wins in a half with only seven wins before the all-star break this season.
The Power were in sole possession of first place for the first time this season entering Wednesday’s game with Hagerstown. A 12-7 loss dropped them even with the Suns in the standings, but considering how poor the team played at times in the first half, it’s an easily identifiable step in the right direction for the club to even be in the conversation at the top of the standings at this point.
Sofield said a big part of what went wrong in the first half started on opening night and from there it took the Power a long time to right the ship.
“I don’t think anybody understands how off-balance we got opening night when (starting pitcher Nick) Kingham couldn’t get out of the first inning. We set our bullpen back two weeks,” Sofield said. “We had no pitch totals built up. We didn’t know where they all fit with setup men and closers. It was a whirlwind and we didn’t catch our breath until just about the halfway point when things got solidified. Finally we figured out some type of rhythm to our bullpen and our starting pitching has gotten better. That’s the key to all of this.”
Since the all-star break, West Virginia is 22-18 and leads the SAL with 14 wins on the road. Compare that to the first half of the season when the team posted a 23-47 record and it is easy to see that this team, despite not having much going on in the way of big roster moves, has found a way to change its fortunes and win games.
West Virginia pitcher Zack Dodson was put on the temporary inactive list Tuesday by the Pirates. Dodson, who pitched six innings and allowed just one run in a win against Hagerstown on Monday, had allowed just five earned runs in his last five starts before being placed on the temporary inactive list. The Pirates promoted Emmanuel De Leon from State College to take Dodson’s spot on the active roster for West Virgnia.
When asked about the move, Sofield offered a “no comment” and said, “That’s something I’ll let the organization handle the way they want to handle it.”