Power send Crawdads packing

Caufield helps West Virginia advance to Sally Finals

(Tom Priddy/MLB.com)

September 8, 2007 10:30 PM

Matt LaPorta, Chuckie Caufield and Taylor Green each drove in two runs Saturday as the West Virginia Power beat the Hickory Crawdads, 9-4, to advance to the South Atlantic League Championship Series.

LaPorta opened the scoring with his first playoff homer in the first inning, then ripped an RBI double and scored in the Power's four-run third. The 22-year-old designated hitter batted .500 with seven runs scored and four RBIs in the series, despite feeling under the weather.

"I was actually a little sick the last two days and just gave the team everything I had and was fortunate enough to produce and help the club win," he said. "Right now, everyone is feeling great. Our emotions are high. It is great to see everyone enjoy this win because it's something we worked so hard for."

Caufield, who went 3-for-5, smacked an RBI base hit and scored in the fourth and delivered a run-scoring double in the sixth. Afterwards, he was relishing the chance to play for a title. West Virginia hosts Columbus in the best-of-5 championship series, beginning Monday.

"It is a great feeling. This is what you play for because you always want to play for a championship. This is really exciting for us," Caufield said.

The 24-year-old right fielder batted .462 with four runs scored and three RBIs as the Power outscored the Crawdads, 28-19. He said he was just trying to be a catalyst at the top of the order.

"I am seeing the ball real well right now and my main purpose as the leadoff guy is to score runs, get on base and see as many pitches as I can," Caufield said. "Throughout the series and again tonight, I was able to fight off some tough pitches, work the count and produce some quality at-bats."

Green, who fell a triple shy of the cycle in Game 1, continued his hot streak, going 2-for-4 with a two-run double in the third. He hit .500 with a homer and six RBIs in the series, and LaPorta and Caufield weren't surprised by the trio's success.

"I think we all feed off one another and once one person gets it going it seems like everyone starts going," LaPorta said.

"You could see the hunger with each guy in the batter's box and everyone was fighting up there and trying to work the count and string together base hits," Caufield added. "You could see the will to win in each guy when they went to the plate."

The Power lost a 13-7 slugfest in Game 2 on Friday, but Caufield said the team never dwelled on the loss.

"We were still feeling confident and were already looking ahead to tonight's game. We just wanted to focus on playing fundamental baseball," he said. "We are a good team and we just had to relax and play our game."

Starter Donovan Hand (1-0) allowed four runs on 10 hits and struck out one over six-plus innings for the win.

After hitting two homers and driving in seven runs on Friday, Jonel Pacheco went 2-for-4 with an RBI for the Crawdads. Jared Keel added an RBI double and scored a run.

Hickory starter Jared Hughes (0-1) was roughed up for five runs on five hits with two strikeouts in 2 1/3 frames.

Chip Haunss 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.

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