Urena’s catch saves the day in Power win
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The long fly ball to left cut through the late-afternoon drizzle and looked destined for a grand slam that would break the ninth-inning tie.
Kannapolis's Mike Marjama, it seemed, had delivered the big home run that would disrupt the Power's recent run of success.
In the Power dugout, pitching coach Jeff Johnson took one look at the fly ball, glanced at hitting coach Orlando Merced and spoke words of despair.
"As soon as he hit it,'' said Johnson, "I told Orlando that's not good. I thought it was gone.''
But Power left fielder Luis Urena, who joined the team Wednesday, hurried to the base of the left-center fence and, making good use of his 6-foot-4 frame, reached above the top of the wall to make the catch and end the top of the ninth inning.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Power's Max Moroff led off with a walk, took second on a wild pitch, moved to third on Dilson Herrera's bunt single and scored on Josh Bell's sacrifice fly to deep right center, giving West Virginia a 5-4 victory Sunday at Appalachian Power Park.
Urena's catch, of course, made it all possible.
"That was probably the best play I've seen all year,'' said Power third baseman Walker Gourley. "To make that play at that time of the game, it doesn't get any better than that. The circumstances always go into it. You always factor that in. That was just a big-time play.''
The 20-year-old Urena, a native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, opened the season in rookie league with the Gulf Coast Pirates and, entering Sunday's game, had gone hitless with six strikeouts in his first nine at-bats with the Power.
"The kid's been struggling offensively,'' said Johnson, "and to make that kind of catch, it saved the game for us. He also made a tremendous play [Saturday]. Kudos to Luis for that. His bat hasn't been going well, and he could have been hanging his head, but he didn't.''
Pitching in raindrops in the top of the ninth, Power reliever Ryan Hafner yielded a single to center, a hit batsman and an infield single to load the bases with one out. He then struck out a batter and watched uneasily as Urena made his game-changing play.
"Urena made an amazing catch and saved the game,'' said Hafner, who improved to 6-0. "Hats off to him.''
Since starting July with five straight losses, the Power has won eight of 11 games and outscored the opposition 47-30. In five of those victories, Power pitchers have allowed only one run or fewer.
"We've just accepted the challenge of going out there and throwing really well,'' said Hafner.
In addition to his game-winning sacrifice fly, Bell hit a two-run homer in the first inning in helping the Power to a 3-0 lead. Bell now has nine homers and 60 RBIs.
The Power loaded the bases with none out in the second but failed to score. After Kannapolis took a 4-3 lead in the top of the fourth, the Power tied it in the bottom of the inning as Moroff singled, stole second, moved to third on Barrett Barnes' single and came home on a passed ball.
POWER POINTS: The Power will play host to the Intimidators for single games at 7:05 tonight and Tuesday night. ...The victory moved the Power into a virtual tie with Hagerstown for first place in the Northern Division. The Suns were rained out Sunday. ... Urena picked up his first hit as a member of the Power on Sunday, beating out an infield single in the third. ... Gourley, who has hit better than .300 in each of the season's first four months, saw his eight-game hitting streak end. He entered the game with a .329 average that ranked fourth in the league, but dropped to .325. ... Plate umpire Jordan Albarado was struck in the face with a throw in the fourth inning and left the game, forcing base umpire Ryan Benson to work solo thereafter, calling balls and strikes and working the bases. ... Through Saturday's games, the Power averaged 2,257 fans per game to rank 10th in the 14-team South Atlantic League. Sunday's crowd was 1,052.
Reach Mike Whiteford at firstname.lastname@example.org.