A successful homestand wrapped up with a doubleheader split Tuesday at Lake Olmstead Stadium and the results put the Augusta GreenJackets back in playoff contention.
The GreenJackets, who beat the West Virginia Power 2-0 in seven innings in Game 1 before losing by the same score in Game 2, entered the homestand still reeling from four losses in five games in Asheville, N.C.
But five wins in seven games at home allowed Augusta to make up 21/2 games in the standings. The GreenJackets now sit just a half game out of first place in the South Atlantic League Southern Division.
“We felt like we got our butts kicked in Asheville, and we needed to come together,” outfielder Brett Krill said.
Krill and first baseman Ben Thomas answered the challenge with a pair of home runs in Game 1. West Virginia first baseman Jose Osuna responded with a two-run shot in Game 2 for the Power’s 2-0 victory.
With just 35 home runs hit at Lake Olmstead Stadium in 50 games, three in one day felt like a home run derby.
“I was just writing it down. You don’t see that here,” Augusta manager Lipso Nava said. “We won with the long ball in Game 1. In Game 2 we couldn’t get anything going, but their guy did.”
Thomas cleared the center-field wall for a 1-0 lead in the second, and Krill doubled the advantage with a leadoff shot over the left-field fence to start the fifth.
The homers were enough for Augusta starter Edwin Escobar, who threw six shutout innings, walked none and struck out six to improve to 4-5.
Closer Cody Hall loaded the bases on a hit and two walks in the seventh but struck out Gregory Polanco to end the game and secure his league-leading 18th save.
Osuna was the Game 2 hero, ruining an otherwise strong outing from Augusta starter Clayton Blackburn (6-3). The 19-year-old right-hander allowed just the two runs over six innings, walked none and struck out four.
Demondre Arnold retired three of the four batters he faced in a scoreless seventh.
West Virginia starter Nick Kingham (2-7) threw six shutout innings with seven strikeouts and held the Augusta offense to just two hits. Reliever Clario Perez walked Shawn Payne with one out in the seventh but struck out Devin Harris and Thomas to get the save.
Payne, who leads the entire San Francisco Giants organization with 35 steals, was thrown out for the first time this season in the first inning of Game 2.