Opening fireworks at the APP
After a messy season-opening road trip that seemed to portend an unfavorable summer, the Power played a home opener that offered efficiency and hope.
Among the good omens for 2012, shortstop Alen Hanson led off the game with a home run off the scoreboard, center fielder Greg Polanco launched one onto Morris Street in the third and Power pitchers limited the Greenville Drive to just one hit through the final seven innings.
In addition, the Power finished with 12 hits, including seven for extra bases, and continually threatened to break the game open in a 5-1 home-opening victory Thursday night at Appalachian Power Park. A paid crowd of 3,900 attended on a night that opened with temperatures in the low 60s that fell into the mid-40s.
The victory ended a five-game losing streak that was part of a 1-6 road trip during which the Power swung the bats respectably but yielded an average of 7.8 runs a game.
Offense, in fact, looks like a Power attribute.
"When this team learns that instead of getting sad, get a little mad,'' said Power manager Rick Sofield, "and at any moment there's a rotation of guys coming up who can put a five-spot on the board.''
Entering play Thursday, the Power owned a .291 team batting average and, despite the 1-6 record on the road, averaged 5.5 runs per game.
Sofield seemed pleased.
"Our leadoff guy hit one off the scoreboard to start the game. How often do you see that? Not often,'' he said. "He's that kind of guy. He almost hit another one late in the game. [Josh] Bell's swinging the bat. [Willy] Garcia has that kind of power. Polanco hit a two-strike fastball over the right-field fence. This stuff can happen quick for this young bunch. It's just a matter that we stay in the right frame of mind and keep competing.''
Hanson, a 5-foot-11, 165-pounder, rocketed the third pitch he saw for a homer, Polanco led off the third with a blast to right and Polanco added a two-run single in the fourth, giving the Power a 4-1 lead.
Hanson, a 20-year-old native of the Dominican Republic, entered the game with a .367 average and picked up three more hits, including a triple off the right-field wall in the eighth, to raise his average to .412.
"He's an intriguing guy,'' said Power hitting coach Edgar Varela. "He's the No. 15 prospect in the organization. He's wiry strong and has power. And he can do the little things. He can run. He can bunt. He plays a premier position, he's young and he hits from both sides of the plate. That's what I meant by intriguing.''
Meanwhile, Power starter Matt Benedict and relievers Orlando Castro and Jordan Cooper combined on a six-hitter and walked only two. Benedict, who surrendered a run and five hits in the first two innings, went five innings to pick up the victory.
"Benedict was outstanding and he was the last time he pitched,'' said Sofield, who also liked the team's relief work. "That's what we had been missing a little bit, a solid bullpen. We had one tonight, and we were always a scenario away from scoring a lot of runs.''
The Power stranded the bases loaded in each of the first two innings, left two more on base in the fourth and stranded 12 on the night.
"We left a small village on base tonight,'' said Sofield.
Reach Mike Whiteford at firstname.lastname@example.org.