The 2013 West Virginia Power tied a franchise record with 82 wins en route to their third playoff appearance in the nine-year history of the club. In the first half of the regular season, the Power fell 2.5 games shy of clinching a playoff berth with a 37-33 record. However, the team came together in the second half winning 45 games, and clinching a playoff berth five games before the end of the season.
The initial roster featured a wide range of talent from the Pittsburgh Pirates Latin American scouting program and a wealth of players selected by the Pirates in the MLB draft. The opening day roster featured five of the top 30 prospects in Pittsburgh's organization according to Baseball America, including Josh Bell, who returned to West Virginia after playing 15 games at the start of 2012 before missing the rest of the season due to knee injury.
The beginning of the 2013 season quickly became a time that Power players, coaches, and fans alike wanted to forget. The team opened up the first seven games at Appalachian Power Park with only one win. The home opener on April 4th drew 2,693 fans, who saw the Power fall 3-0 to the Asheville Tourists on cold and rainy night in Charleston.
Despite the struggles in April, there were plenty of moments for everyone to enjoy. Pitcher-turned-first baseman Stetson Allie blasted his first home run of the season April 7th, a walk off shot that gave West Virginia their first win in 2013. The team finished with a ten-win month in April, but ranked third in the league with a .270 average. The pitching struggled with a 4.73 average. Later in the month, the Pirates promoted outfield prospect Barrett Barnes to the club, but the Texas Tech product played in only 46 games because of a pair of stints on the disabled list.
The club turned the ship in May, which became one of the most memorable months in club history. West Virginia tied a franchise record with 20 wins and only lost ten times. The offense continued to produce with a .272 average and the pitching showed signs of improvement with a 3.62 ERA in the month. Third baseman Eric Wood provided a pair of walk off wins for the Power in the month. First, a three-run walk off home run in the bottom of the ninth on May 1st against Greensboro, then an RBI single May 23rd versus Lakewood.
At the start of June, West Virginia found themselves in a second-place and only a game out of first place. However, the team finished the first half with seven wins in the last 15 games and finished the first half in third place in the Northern Division standings.
The first half saw the emergence of several players in the Power lineup. Allie became a formidable threat as the cleanup hitter in the Power lineup. The first baseman batted .324 with 17 home runs and 61 RBI including a .607 slugging percentage. Two pitchers also emerged as aces in the staff. 21-year old southpaw Orlando Castro went 7-4 with a 1.93 ERA, leading all pitchers in the league. Also, 19-year-old right hander Tyler Glasnow had two double-digit strikeout performances: May 7th against the Greenville Drive and May 23rd versus the Lakewood BlueClaws en route to a first half ERA of 2.83.
Six players were named to the 2013 South Atlantic League All-Star Team. Allie, Bell, Castro, and second baseman Dilson Herrera were selected as starters for the Northern Division squad. Additionally, Glasnow and utility player Walker Gourley, who played 56 games in the first half while batting .319 were named to the mid-season classic that was played at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood, N.J. June 18th.
A new looking Power team began the second half with another opportunity to win the Northern Division. At the outlook of the second half, the team lost all-stars Orlando Castro and Stetson Allie after the duo received a promotion to the Bradenton Marauders roster. Additionally, the pitching staff lost innings-eater Joely Rodriguez, who tossed 72.2 innings in 14 starts. In return, the Power received first baseman Jordan Steranka and the third-best prospect in the Pirates organization, 18-year-old pitcher Luis Heredia.
The second half began the much like the first half did for West Virginia, a loss. The Power rallied for eight wins in their next ten games in July and led the division for the first time in 2013. The Power finished June with a .261 batting average but the pitching continued to improve yet again with a 3.39 ERA.
July was not friendly to the Power at the start. West Virginia lost six straight games to open the month but never lost a game by more than four runs. Though it was still in the infant stages of the playoff race, the Power were in fourth place in the division on July 6th with an 8-9 record.
After a seven-game road trip in mid-July where the Power won four games, West Virginia began the best home winning streak in franchise history. The Power took two straight against Savannah and swept Kannapolis again in four. When the Power returned home July 29th, the team won seven straight for a franchise-best 13-game home winning streak. Highlights of the streak included three walk-offs in five days from Josh Bell, Chris Diaz, and Jordan Steranka's first professional home run August 1st.
The winning streak catapulted West Virginia into first place on July 29th and the Power held that spot for over two weeks until a 4-1 loss to the Hickory Crawdads on August 17th allowed Hagerstown to take the division lead back. From then on, West Virginia struggled to win consistently, going 4-7 from August 11-22.
Walker Gourley proved to be one of West Virginia's most consistent players all season. The all-star held a team-best .304 average during the regular season with six home runs and 43 RBI. Additionally, Gourley solidified his role as a utility player by playing every position except shortstop, pitcher, and catcher.
With Hagerstown winning the division in the first half and leading in the latter stages of the second half, the playoff race came down to West Virginia and Hickory. Despite having a better record against the Power, the Crawdads lost seven of their final ten games and West Virginia went 10-3 to end August, ultimately clinching a postseason berth on August 29th in front of 4,088 fans for the first time in five years.
The clinch was bitter sweet for West Virginia as they lost a key component from their club in second baseman and all-star Dilson Herrera. Two days before the Power reached the postseason, Herrera was traded to the New York Mets organization in return for the Pirates' acquisition of Marlon Byrd and John Buck. Herrera joined the Savannah Sand Gnats, who clinched the Southern Division in the first half.
Tyler Glasnow and the rest of the starting pitchers were dominant in the second half. Glasnow went 6-2 with a 1.50 ERA and tossed three games with double-digit strikeouts. For his efforts, Glasnow was named as a Post-Season All-Star. Luis Heredia went 7-2 with a 2.05 ERA in 13 games as a starter, and prospect Clay Holmes showed huge improvements in command after the all-star break with only 29 walks in 59 innings compared to 40 free passes in the first half.
Like Glasnow, right fielder Josh Bell also received all-star honors at the end of the season. The 2nd round draft pick finished the season batting .279 with 13 home runs and 76 RBI in a bounce-back year.
Playoff buzz captured the attention of West Virginia baseball fans. The first game of the playoffs saw 4,839 fans cheering on the Power in their first home playoff game since 2008. The Power lost that game but defeated Hagerstown in extra innings in game two; forcing a deciding game three, where the Power fell just short of advancing to the championship round.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.