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Link Report for Games of Monday, April 7th

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Monday's Daily Menu: No big league game, no problem!


All times Central; pitchers subject to change --


Nashville: LHP Lindsay Gulin at Oklahoma (Rangers), 6:45 PM pre-game; 7:05 gametime


Audio link:



Huntsville: LHP Sam Narron at home vs. Mississippi (Braves), 6:50 PM pre-game; 7:05 gametime


Audio link via WUMP (game will also archive at this link):



Brevard County: TBD at home vs. Palm Beach (Cardinals), 6:00 PM gametime


Sorry -- no audio for this series...

West Virginia: LHP Mike Ramlow at home vs. Augusta (Giants), 5:50 PM pre-game, 6:05 gametime


Audio link via WSWW, be sure to select the proper date (game will also archive at this link):


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Follow Monday's action as it happens:

Here's what you do, right click on each of the links below and choose "Open in New Window". Open the Nashville Gameday. For the others, choose "Log" or "Recap". While you're listening to your minor league game of choice (or watching/listening to the big league Crew when they are playing), simply refresh your game log browsers every so often.






Huntsville Game:




Brevard County:




West Virginia:



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 Pacific Coast League (AAA) - PCL American North Division Standings ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Team W L PCT GB HOME ROAD STREAK ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Memphis 2 2 .500 - 0-0 2-2 W1 Omaha 2 2 .500 - 2-2 0-0 W1 Iowa 1 3 .250 1.0 1-3 0-0 L2 Nashville 1 3 .250 1.0 0-0 1-3 W1 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 

 Southern League (AA) - SOU North Division Standings ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Team W L PCT GB HOME ROAD STREAK ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Huntsville 4 0 1.000 - 4-0 0-0 W4 Carolina 3 1 .750 1.0 0-0 3-1 L1 Tennessee 3 1 .750 1.0 0-0 3-1 W3 Chattanooga 2 2 .500 2.0 0-0 2-2 L1 West Tenn 1 3 .250 3.0 0-0 1-3 L2 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 

 Florida State League (A+) - FSL East Division Standings ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Team W L PCT GB HOME ROAD STREAK ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Palm Beach 4 0 1.000 - 2-0 2-0 W4 Vero Beach 3 1 .750 1.0 2-1 1-0 L1 Daytona 2 2 .500 2.0 1-1 1-1 W1 Jupiter 2 2 .500 2.0 2-0 0-2 W2 Brevard County 1 3 .250 3.0 0-2 1-1 L3 St. Lucie 0 4 .000 4.0 0-1 0-3 L4 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 

 South Atlantic League (A) - SAL Northern Division Standings ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Team W L PCT GB HOME ROAD STREAK ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Greensboro 3 1 .750 - 0-0 3-1 L1 Hickory 3 1 .750 - 3-1 0-0 W3 Lake County 3 1 .750 - 0-0 3-1 W1 Hagerstown 2 1 .667 0.5 0-0 2-1 L1 Delmarva 1 2 .333 1.5 1-2 0-0 W1 Lakewood 1 3 .250 2.0 1-3 0-0 L1 Lexington 1 3 .250 2.0 0-0 1-3 L1 West Virginia 1 3 .250 2.0 0-0 1-3 L3 

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Ramlow hopes to take command for Power
Power faces Augusta in tonight's home opener
Charleston Daily Mail sportswriter

Milwaukee Brewers pitching prospect Mike Ramlow isn't too bummed about spending a second season in the low Class A South Atlantic League with the West Virginia Power.

Ramlow realizes he still has work to do before he will receive (and deserve) a promotion to the high Class A Florida State League with the Brevard County Manatees.

That work will begin tonight when Ramlow makes his mound debut and the Power plays its home opener for the 2008 season.

"I'm ready for it," said Ramlow, whom the Brewers selected in the 24th round in the 2005 Major League Baseball Draft. "I love the fans there. They are behind us 100 percent. Hopefully, me and my teammates can give them a great game and show them what we're about."

West Virginia is scheduled to host Augusta (Ga.) at Appalachian Power Park at 7:05 PM (6:05 Central). The game will feature a battle of southpaws -- Ramlow for the Power (1-3) and Craig Clark for the GreenJackets (1-3).

"I need to work on my fastball command and pitch combinations," said Ramlow, 22, who is from Maumee, Ohio. "I also need to work on keeping the ball down in the zone. Last year, I was up in the zone a lot of times."

Added Power pitching coach John Curtis: "He still needs to demonstrate the skills and the mastery of the things we want pitchers to have control of in this league. That is fastball command and down in the zone.

"We are going to work on a little two-seam action with him and try to get some sink in his fastball. The big thing is the command of the fastball down around the knees. If he can do that, he will be successful and probably won't be here long."

Ramlow started 20 games and appeared in seven others last year, compiling a 5-5 record with a 6.11 earned run average. He allowed 130 hits and 77 runs (71 earned) in 104 2/3 innings. He had 80 strikeouts compared to 36 walks. He threw nine wild pitches. Opponents hit .304 against him.

"I was up in the zone too much," Ramlow said. "I got hit around a lot because of that and not being able to throw my secondary pitches for strikes. It was just poor mechanics. I wasn't repeating my delivery the right way."

Ramlow, whose fastball registers 88 mph and whose reportoire includes a changeup and curveball, stands 6 feet, 6 inches. He weighs 185 pounds.

"His size works for him because he has good downward plane on his pitches," Curtis said, "but it also works against him because he is a little frail and doesn't have much weight on him. His arm takes a fair amount of stress. We are looking for him to get a little stronger.

"He needs to build himself up and demonstrate an ability to get into the sixth and seventh inning. As he continues in the terrific conditioning program our organization offers, that arm is going to get stronger."

Curtis said Ramlow will make one more start for the Power this season, but he will move to the bullpen as soon as starting pitcher Dan Merklinger comes off the disabled list.

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Change is in the air

Hoffman's conversion to pitcher underscores lower minors' uncertainties

By Mike Whiteford

Charleston Gazette Staff writer


As the Power prepares for its South Atlantic League home opener tonight, the people involved - players, managers, coaches, fans and media - will again grapple with one of baseball's most baffling questions.


It's a perpetual, underlying one: Which Power players will excel at Appalachian Power Park this summer, move up the baseball ladder and eventually earn big-league promotions?


Jim Lett, the Power's first-year hitting coach, knows all about the uncertainties and underlying themes of baseball's lower minors. He once worked with a player who seemed only marginally talented but turned things around dramatically, made his way to the big leagues and, astonishingly, has put together credentials worthy of the Baseball Hall of Fame.


As manager of the Charleston Wheelers 18 years ago, Lett and pitching coach Mike Griffin initiated a player-development project that, all things considered, ranks as one of the most improbable in baseball history.


The 1990 season had passed the halfway point and, as Lett and Griffin sat in their cramped office at Watt Powell Park one day, they pondered the fate of Trevor Hoffman, the Wheelers' shortstop and Cincinnati's 11th-round draft choice in 1989. At the time, Hoffman was approaching his 23rd birthday and was in the midst of a lackluster season that would produce a .212 batting average and two home runs in 103 games.


But Hoffman's laser-like throws across the infield had caught everyone's attention.


"We thought, 'Boy, this guy's arm ... but is he ever going to hit in the big leagues? It was questionable,'' Lett recalled this week.


To make use of that arm, the Wheeler manager and pitching coach approached Hoffman and suggested his future might lie in pitching. Would he be willing to make the switch?


"And he was agreeable,'' said Lett. "He was a super person and still is. He was willing. I think he realized, too, that this was another avenue for him.''


After that, Griffin began taking Hoffman to the bullpen along Watt Powell's right-field line for some pre-game throwing and tinkering, a routine that turned the heads of other Wheeler players.


Meanwhile, Lett contacted the late Chief Bender, player-development director of the Wheelers' parent club, the Reds, and told him about the experiment. Lett also recommended that Hoffman be assigned to the off-season Instructional League to continue work as a pitcher. Bender agreed.


Less than three years later, Hoffman was in the big leagues and now, as the Padres closer, owns more saves than any pitcher in the game's history.


"Pitching is always at a premium,'' said Lett, "and if you had someone who had that kind of arm strength ...''


Lett, a Winfield native who worked as the Pirates' bench coach under manager Jim Tracy for the past two seasons, witnessed Hoffman's record-breaking 479th career save in 2006 in San Diego. It came against the Pirates.


"With all his success, he's still the same guy,'' said Lett. "He's down to earth, always says hello, always appreciative.''


POWER POINTS: The Power will play host to the Augusta GreenJackets at tonight and Tuesday and, after a 10:35 AM (9:35 Central) Grand Slam School Day on Wednesday, will conclude the series with a game Thursday night. The Greenville Drive will then visit Appalachian Power Park for a four-game series beginning Friday ... The Power, a Milwaukee affiliate, is coming off an 82-54 season, which ranked third in the South Atlantic League, and is beginning its fourth season at APP. Charleston has been an SAL member since 1987 ... Nineteen players on the Power roster spent at least part of last season at Helena, Mont., which posted a 48-28 record in the Class A short-season Pioneer League. "We're going to win games by stealing bases, by moving the runner over,'' said Power catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who hit .342 at Helena last season. "We're going to hit some home runs and have some power, but we're going to win games by playing the right way.'' ...


Power manager Jeff Isom managed at Helena last year and is familiar with most players on the roster.

Charleston Gazette Photo by Kenny Kemp


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Definitely some good things happening this evening -- let's kick it off...


Final: Brevard County 5, Palm Beach (Cardinals) 3


Brevard County Box Score

RHP Alex Periard allows only two base hits in five stellar innings; Stephen Chapman homers, singles, and walks; Taylor Green continue to reach base more than half the time this young season; Bobby Bramhall tired late after a lengthy relief stint, so Shawn Ferguson came on to get the final out with the tying run on base; 821 in the stands...


Brevard County Game Log

Bizarre three-run Manatee 5th looked like this --


Brevard County Bottom 5th

  • Darren Ford called out on strikes.
  • Lorenzo Cain grounds out, shortstop Oliver Marmol to first baseman Brandon Buckman.
  • Taylor Green walks.
  • Chuckie Caufield singles on a line drive to third baseman Isaias Garcia. Taylor Green to 2nd.
  • Stephen Chapman walks. Taylor Green to 3rd. Chuckie Caufield to 2nd.
  • Pitcher Change: Gary DaleyJr. replaces Brandon Dickson.
  • Charlie Fermaint hit by pitch. Taylor Green scores. Chuckie Caufield to 3rd. Stephen Chapman to 2nd.
  • Kenny Holmberg hit by pitch. Chuck Caufield scores. Stephen Chapman to 3rd. Charlie Fermaint to 2nd.
  • Jimmy Mojica hit by pitch. Stephen Chapman scores. Charlie Fermaint to 3rd. Kenny Holmberg to 2nd.
  • Martin Maldonado grounds out, shortstop Oliver Marmol to first baseman Brandon Buckman.


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Nice to see Wheeler playing second and Wilson playing third for the Power. Wheeler could become a nice little prospect if he can show he can move around on the infield. I know there were some questions about Steffan Wilson's ability to stay on third himself, that he projects as more of a first baseman. Every game he plays at third quiets those questions.


And man, I'm gonna have to take a trip down to Huntsville to see this team before they break 'em up.

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Final: West Virginia 7, Augusta (Giants) 1

Nice home opener in front of over 4500...


West Virginia Box Score

Similar to Alex Periard with Brevard, Mike Ramlow with a no-walk (one HBP) scoreless five innings (four hits) -- seven ground ball outs for Mike; Wes Etheridge with a dandy four innings of his own -- the two combined to strike out 12; Lee Haydel now a perfect 4-for-4 on the basepaths; John Alonso with a three-run bomb; Zelous Wheeler breaks out of an early-season slump with two hits, including his first Power home run...


West Virginia Game Log

Press release with details later on...

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Charleston, WV - John Alonso and Zelous Wheeler both went deep on Monday night as the West Virginia Power broke a string of 17 scoreless innings and won their home opener, defeating the Augusta GreenJackets 7-1 at Appalachian Power Park.


Wheeler broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the second inning on a two-run homer, his first of the year. Lee Haydel and Caleb Gindl smacked run-scoring singles in the bottom of the third before Alonso capped the five-run frame with a three-run homer, his second of the year.

Augusta scored their only run on Thomas Neal's solo homer in the top of the seventh inning. The victory gives the West Virginia Power a record of 4-0 in home openers at Appalachian Power Park.


Mike Ramlow (1-0) tossed five scoreless innings and struck out six to get the victory. Wes Etheridge (2) allowed just a run on one hit and also struck out six in four innings of relief to get the save while T.J. Brewer (0-1) was tagged with the loss after giving up seven runs on five hits in three innings.


The Power will continue their four game series with the Augusta GreenJackets at Appalachian Power Park on Tuesday night. Right hander Rob Bryson (0-0, 0.00) will get the start for the Power and the GreenJackets will counter with right hander Yntema Orlando (0-0, 0.00). The first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM (6:05 Central).




Look for plenty of coverage from the two Charleston newspapers by mid-day Tuesday.

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Final: Oklahoma (Rangers) 6, Nashville 1

Nashville Site Game Summary:

Link, text follows --


Sounds Drop Series Opener In Oklahoma


OKLAHOMA CITY - The Nashville Sounds came up on the short end of a 6-1 loss against the Oklahoma RedHawks on Monday evening at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark in the opener of a four-game series.


Former Brewer Kevin Mench and left fielder Brandon Boggs each had two extra-base hits and scored two runs apiece to pace the Oklahoma offense, while rehabbing hurler Luis Mendoza held the Sounds to one run over his 7 1/3 innings of work.


The Sounds took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Hernan Iribarren opened the contest with an infield single, stole second, and later scored on a Vinny Rottino groundout. With his hit, Iribarren extended his hitting streak to four games, matching the longest by a Nashville player in the young season.


Nashville starter Lindsay Gulin deftly worked out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the frame created by a single sandwiched by a pair of Sounds fielding errors. The left-hander induced a foul popout from Jarrod Saltamacchia then escaped the jam unscathed following a soft lineout off the bat of Mench (2-for-4). Prior to the two fielding gaffs in the bottom of the first, the Nashville defense had not committed an error in their previous 27 innings.


Oklahoma tied the contest at 1-1 in the bottom of the second with a pair of extra-base hits off Gulin. Boggs (2-for-3) led off with a double and came around to score two batters later on a Casey Benjamin triple to right-center.


The RedHawks took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the third with a pair of unearned runs stemming from a two-out throwing error by Nashville shortstop Ozzie Chavez. Former Sound Nelson Cruz plated one of the Oklahoma runs with a two-out RBI single that greeted reliever Jason Shiell.


Oklahoma broke the game open in the seventh with a three-run outburst against Sounds reliever Ben Howard. After Saltamacchia drew a one-out walk, Mench and Boggs delivered a run-scoring double and triple, respectively, to increase the lead to 5-1 and chase the right-hander. Ryan Roberts greeted Mitch Stetter with an RBI single that upped the advantage to its final 6-1.


RedHawks hurlers were on cruise control in the middle innings, retiring 10 straight batters from the fifth through the eighth before Laynce Nix opened the Sounds' ninth with a double against Frank Francisco, his first extra-base knock of the year. The Oklahoma right-hander recovered to retire the next three batters in order to end the contest.


Mendoza (1-0) picked up the win after allowing one run on seven hits over 7 1/3 frames of work. He struck out two batters during his 81-pitch effort.


Gulin (0-1) absorbed the loss after he allowed three runs (one earned) on four hits over 3 2/3 innings in his first start of the year.


The teams continue the series with a 7:05 p.m. matchup on Tuesday evening. Sounds left-hander Zach Jackson (0-1, 6.00) will man the bump to face Oklahoma right-hander Eric Hurley (0-0, 5.40).


Nashville Box Score



Nashville Game Log


AUDIO: Abraham Nunez Snags A Liner

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<====== He's good.

Seriously, it is going to be really interesting to see what the Brewers end up doing with Gamel. His bat and glove are going to be MLB ready at significantly different times.

He looks like he could hit MLB pitching next year. Problem is, he might need more than that to be a quality defensive 3B.

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<====== He's good.


Seriously, it is going to be really interesting to see what the Brewers end up doing with Gamel. His bat and glove are going to be MLB ready at significantly different times.


He looks like he could hit MLB pitching next year. Problem is, he might need more than that to be a quality defensive 3B.




When does he have to be up? Don't they still have a couple years? It will be interesting to see how long they leave him at 3rd.
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Huntsville Press Release:




Sam Narron worked six strong innings and Mat Gamel collected three hits and knocked in a pair of runs, as Huntsville raced to a big early lead and went on to down Mississippi 9-5 Monday night at Joe Davis Stadium to complete a sweep of the season-opening five-game series. The Stars have started a season 5-0 for the first time in the 24-year history of the franchise and finished their second straight five-game series sweep of the Braves dating back to last August.


Alcides Escobar tripled in a run and scored on a Gamel groundout to give the Stars a 2-0 lead just three batters into the home half of the first

inning. Mike Bell added a run-scoring double and Carlos Corporan singled in a two-out run in the third inning to push the home team's lead to 6-0. Dustin Evans suffered the loss in his first double-A start after allowing six runs, five earned, on eight hits over three frames.


Narron retired 11 hitters in a row after allowing a one-out double in the first before Mark Jurich led off the fifth inning with his second home run to get the visitors on the board. Matt Young led off the sixth inning with a pinch-hit double and scored on a Javier Guzman ground out to cut the lead to 6-2. Narron allowed two runs on four hits and fanned three in avenging a loss to the Braves in his first start of last season in the last game of the season-starting series, when he took the loss after allowing five runs in the first inning. The five Huntsville starters combined to allow only four earned runs over a combined 27 2/3 innings in the series.


Guzman's sacrifice fly trimmed the Stars advantage to 6-4 and when Jordan Schafer doubled with two outs in the eighth, manager Don Money called on Joe Bateman to try to close the door. Kala Ka'aihue greeted him with a single to plate Schafer to cut the lead to one but Bateman struck out Jurich to end the rally. Michael Brantley's two-run, bases loaded single and a two-out, run-producing hit by Gamel off of Michael Nix pushed the home team's lead back to four in the bottom of the inning. Bateman then tossed a shutout ninth inning to record his second save.


The Stars open a five-game series against West Tenn Wednesday night with left-hander Steve Hammond taking the mound against Diamond Jaxx right-hander Doug Fister. Coverage of the game begins at 6:50 pm central time and can be heard locally on SportsRadio 730 WUMP and through the internet at www.huntsvillestars.com.

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Stars keep winning streak going in April

Huntsville beats Mississippi 9-5 for 5-0 record
For The Huntsville Times

Making history in September is much more meaningful, but the Huntsville Stars will have to settle for some April accolades for now.

With Monday's 9-5 series-sweeping victory over Mississippi at Joe Davis Stadium, the Stars secured their best start in franchise history at 5-0 before hitting the road for West Tenn.

"Any time you can start off as well as we have, it's one of those things that snowballs," said Sam Narron, who won his first start of the season with six stellar innings.

"It's big when you have a lot of young guys like this. It gives you a lot of early confidence."

Monday looked like it would be easy for a while, but the Braves awoke from their four-game slumber to nearly spoil the party for Stars and the announced crowd of 887. Huntsville built a six-run cushion and hung on despite giving up runs in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and two in the eighth to make it 6-5.

Center fielder Michael Brantley provided the necessary insurance in the bottom of the eighth when he laced an opposite-field, two-run single past the shortstop. Mat Gamel - who went 3-for-5 with two RBIs - added another run-scoring single for the final tally.

"The three guys in front of me did a great job getting on, and I just got a fastball away I could handle," said Brantley, who went 2-for-5 with two RBIs. "Just the way we battled through tonight and finally put some more runs on the board was big."

As for Mississippi, Pearl must look like paradise after this series.

Huntsville won five games by a combined 28-11. The Stars hit the ball all over the park, won a pair of pitchers' duels, hit home runs, manufactured runs and shut down the heart of the Braves' order.

Mississippi's Nos. 3 and 4 hitters - Atlanta's top prospect Jordan Schafer and power-hitting first baseman Kala Ka'aihue - were a combined 3-for-25. Also, the Braves kicked it around in the field with nine errors.

"We came in and Schafer was a new guy, so we kind of had to feel him out that first day," Narron said. "Hambone (Steve Hammond) did a great job, and we just had good starting pitching the rest of the series one-through-five."

Added Stars manager Don Money: "I think everybody did a fine job."

They wasted no time against Mississippi starter Dustin Evans. The right-hander struggled last season, and he didn't improve Monday. Huntsville scored three times in the first and posted runs in all three of the innings Evans pitched. Brantley opened the game with a rocket off his ankle, and the Stars continued beating him up from that point.

Alcides Escobar drove home his teammate with a triple, and Gamel knocked Escobar in with a groundout. Then, Matt LaPorta doubled, and Mike Bell's double plated him two batters later.

Huntsville added one in the second and two in the third, but things got shaky when reliever Ben Stanczyk allowed three runs in his 1 2/3 innings. Joe Bateman came on with two outs in the eighth and finished for his second save.

Catcher Angel Salome returned from his 50-game suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, but he did not play.

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Power blasts away in home opener


By Mike Whiteford

Charleston Gazette Staff writer


As early as the second inning, the West Virginia Power's offensive handiwork was bouncing around on Morris Street.


Zelous Wheeler, the Power's stocky new second baseman, had reached out and stroked a two-run opposite-field home run that cleared the right-center wall and landed in the warehouse district.


It brought some much-needed invigoration to the Power attack, offsetting the rain-plagued doldrums of the recent four-game series in Hickory, and sent the home team on its way to a 7-1 victory over the Augusta GreenJackets Monday night at Appalachian Power Park.


The home opener - the fourth for the East End ballpark - seemed to bring out the best in the latest Power aggregation and attracted another good crowd, 4,547.


It was Power manager Jeff Isom's first game at APP, and the atmosphere, he said, more than lived up to its reputation.


"I had heard stories about how it is here,'' said Isom, sitting in his office afterward, "but the stories I heard didn't do it justice. The atmosphere is a lot of fun, and I definitely would hate being an opposing team playing in this environment.''


Just before hitting his two-run blast, the 5-foot-10, 220-pound Wheeler fouled off four straight pitches and, after trying to protect the plate with two strikes, was pleasantly surprised to see the acceleration in his fly ball.


"I was just trying to put the ball in play,'' he said. "I love this park. It's built for me.''


After Wheeler's homer had given his team an early 2-0 lead, the Power in the third inning began conjuring up additional images of its 2007 predecessors, who led the South Atlantic League with a .281 batting average and compiled an 82-54 record, which included a 14-game winning streak in April.


Leadoff man Lee Haydel and No. 3 hitter Caleb Gindl contributed RBI singles, raising the lead to 4-0, and John Alonso followed with a towering three-run homer to left that landed on Smith Street.


Alonso, one of the few veterans from last year's team, sees similarities to 2007.


"We're pretty close,'' he said. "I see us kind of doing the same thing we did last year, getting on a roll and maybe winning 13 or 14 in a row like we did last year.''


Power starter Mike Ramlow and reliever Wes Etheridge combined on a five-hitter and did not walk a batter. They combined for 12 strikeouts.


In a season-opening series that concluded Sunday in Hickory, the Power lost three of four, batted just .170 and scored only seven runs. Two rainouts forced back-to-back weekend doubleheaders.


"We got off our routine, and we didn't have batting practice for a couple days,'' said Isom. "We're not here to make excuses, but it's tough, especially early on when we're still trying to get in some sort of rhythm. We had a good batting practice today, and it was nice to get a couple runs early. The guys weren't pressing, and we started swinging the bats a little bit there in the third inning.''


After the five-run third inning, however, the Power collected just more two hits and finished with seven. Two Augusta errors contributed to three unearned runs.


POWER POINTS: The Power and GreenJackets will play Tuesday night and, after a 10:35 AM (9:35 Central) Grand Slam School Day on Wednesday, will close out the series with an evening game Thursday. Greenville will then visit for a four-game series beginning Friday. ... Protective screens have been mounted atop each dugout to help keep fans safe from line drives. ... Augusta pitching coach Ross Grimsley pitched for the 1981 Charleston Charlies, and his father, Ross Grimsley Sr., pitched for the 1954 Charleston Senators. "I was just here on rehab,'' the GreenJackets pitching coach recalled. He spent 11 years in the big leagues and won 18 games for the 1974 Orioles.


Charleston Gazette Photo by Kenny Kemp

Rod Blackstone rallies the crowd at the start of the home opener for the West Virginia Power minor league baseball team. Blackstone, known as "The Toast Man," is a traditional opening day fixture, taunting opposing batters who strike out with "You are toast!" before flinging real toast into the crowd.



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Nice slideshow from Opening Day -- click on the word "Captions" in the bottom right so you can identify the players mentioned.


Also a note that the Power audio archive, which we link to above in the Daily Menu, now includes the "Bull on Baseball" hour-long baseball discussion with Andy "Bull" Barch. Its discussion will focus on all of baseball, not just the Power, and it included plenty of spirited MLB talk last evening, including Brewer news.

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Power flips switch in home opener

Isom says Power Park 'atmosphere is a lot of fun'

by Jacob Messer

Charleston Daily Mail sportswriter


Jeff Isom mistakenly thought he knew what to expect from the crowd when the West Virginia Power hosted the Augusta (Ga.) GreenJackets in its home opener.


Instead, he underestimated the homefield advantage Appalachian Power Park provides his minor league baseball team.


"I had heard stories about how it is here, but the stories I had heard did it no justice," Isom said Monday night. "The atmosphere is a lot of fun.


"I definitely would hate being an opposing team coming into this environment. They make it fun for the home team, there is no question. I can see how it can be used to our advantage."


Isom and the Power rewarded the raucous home crowd of 4,547 with a 7-1 win over the GreenJackets in the first of a four-game South Atlantic League series.


Incidentally, it was the third-largest crowd for a home opener at Appalachian Power Park - the attendance for the others was 5,354 in 2005; 5,742 in 2006; and 3,642 in 2007. The team improved to 4-0 in home openers there.


West Virginia (2-3) made quick work of Augusta (1-4). The Power peeled its Peach State visitors in 2 hours and 15 minutes on an absolutely gorgeous spring night (75 degrees with clear skies and a slight breeze).


The Power led 2-0 after the second inning. Second baseman Zelous Wheeler smashed an 0-2 pitch over the Joe Holland sign in right-center field for a two-run home run.


The fact that Wheeler came to the plate only because Augusta shortstop Charlie Culberson committed a two-out error made it even more painful for the GreenJackets.

"It was two strikes and I was just trying to put it into play," said Wheeler, who fouled off three consecutive pitches before he hit his home run. "He kept throwing me slider, slider, slider, breaking ball after breaking ball, then kept coming with fastballs. I was fighting and battling off to give myself another chance. He came back with a slider again. So, I did what I can do with it."


Wheeler couldn't wipe the post-game smile off his face.


"The ball will carry real good in right center," he said. "I'm a right-center, gap-to-gap hitter. I love this park. I feel like it's built for me. Guys were telling me right center has a short porch and the ball carries out there. So, I was looking forward to coming in and playing in this stadium."


The Power added five more runs in the third.


Center fielder Lee Haydel delivered an RBI single to score left fielder Scott Houin, who reached on a two-base error by Culberson. Haydel then stole second base and scored on right fielder Caleb Gindl's RBI single. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy followed with a hit of his own.


That brought up designated hitter John Alonso, who connected on a three-run home run, slamming a full-count delivery over the Chevron sign in left field after fouling off three consecutive pitches.


It was the second home run this season for Alonso, who said he feels better in the field and at the plate after losing about 20 pounds during the offseason.


"He kept on going middle away, middle away and I kept fouling them off, fouling them off," Alonso said. "He threw one at my letters and I fouled it off. He tried to beat me in with a two-seamer (fastball). I just kind of reacted and that's what happened."


The offensive outburst came a day after West Virginia managed no runs and only six hits in a pair of 1-0 losses to Hickory (N.C.) on Sunday.


"We got a good batting practice in today," said Isom, whose team broke a string of 17 scoreless innings. "Then, it was nice we got a couple of runs early. Guys weren't pressing then.


"We just started swinging the bats there a little bit in the third inning. We had some real good at-bats. That was good to see. I just wish I would have saw it a little bit later in the game. We didn't do any threatening late in the game at all. But they had some pretty good pitchers out there."


So did the Power. Left-handed starter Mike Ramlow (no runs, four hits and six strikeouts in five innings) and right-handed reliever Wes Etheridge (one run, one hit and six strikeouts in four innings) both pitched well. Ramlow (1-0) got the win, while Etheridge (2) got the save.

The GreenJackets' only run came on designated hitter Thomas Neal's sixth-inning solo shot to center field.


"It was a good first outing," Ramlow said. "I had the fastball working with a good changeup. I worked both sides of the plate. The biggest thing was just fastball command."


The teams will continue their series tonight at 7:05 (6:05 Central) in a battle of right-handers - West Virginia's Rob Bryson (0-0, 0.00) and Augusta's Yntema Orlando (0-0, 0.00).

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