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Audio: Loyola leads off with a long ball
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Reel in a Catfish cap
Columbus continued to steamroll through the South Atlantic League playoffs, with Maiko Loyola's leadoff home run sparking a 5-2 win over host West Virginia on Tuesday.
Loyola's second postseason blast got the Catfish going as they reeled off their fourth straight win in Game 2 of the league Finals.
Columbus manager Jim Morrison said the homer was another example of his team playing all aspects of the game the right way.
"I'm really thankful for this stretch that we've had lately," he said. "These guys come to play every night relaxed, but focused. All of them play fundamentally sound baseball. They execute to the best of their abilities.
"Whenever you're in the playoffs, you need good pitching and defense to go far. The Power's lineup is one of the best in the league, but our pitching staff was, too, and we've been able to keep them in check so far. Top to bottom, we've been functioning as well as a team can."
Quinn Stewart delivered a two-run single in the fourth and lifted a sacrifice fly in the sixth for the Catfish. The 24-year-old designated hitter is batting .533 (8-for-15) with a homer, seven RBIs and five runs scored in the postseason.
"Quinn is playing just the way we thought he would," Morrison said. "He struggled early on as a DH, but a lot of people don't realize actually how difficult it is when you have to sit out for so long and maintain your concentration and focus. Quinn has done an outstanding job lately, whether it's with his strike-zone recognition or coming through with runners on."
Reliever Jeremy Hall (1-0) picked up the victory, allowing a run on three hits and a walk with a strikeout in 4 1/3 frames before Ryan Owen and Ryan Reid combined to record the final five outs. Columbus starter Will Kline gave up a run on three hits and two walks while fanning four in three innings.
The Catfish have shut down their opponents in the playoffs, pitching to a 1.25 ERA with 31 strikeouts and eight walks in 36 innings. They've held in check a West Virginia team that finished first or second in the SAL in 10 offensive categories in the regular season.
"I'm not surprised at all that our pitching has been the way it has been," Stewart said. "[Pitching] is a big reason why we're here in the first place. Brian [Baker], Heath [Rollins] and [Jeremy] Hellickson have been huge for us all season and it's carried over to the playoffs."
"You just have to tip your hat to everyone in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays scouting department," Morrison added. "They've done a great job as far as finding the right players and helping put them in a position to succeed. There are a lot of great kids here and they come to every single game ready to play."
Taylor Green had an RBI base hit in the first and John Alonso led off the fourth with a homer for West Virginia.
Power starter Shawn Ferguson (0-2) allowed five runs on six hits and three walks with a strikeout over five-plus frames.
Columbus can wrap up the best-of-5 series on Thursday at home.
Michael Echan is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.