HAGERSTOWN — Plainly put, the West Virginia Power were saved by the Bell.
Which meant it didn’t toll well for the Hagerstown Suns.
Josh Bell drove in four runs — including a crucial two-run double in the 11th inning — to lift the Power to a 6-3 win over the Suns on Friday at Municipal Stadium to tie the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division playoff series at one game each.
With the victory, the Power forced a deciding game in the best-of-3 series tonight at 7:05 at the stadium. The winner will advance to the SAL championship series against Savannah, which finished its sweep of Augusta on Friday.
“I think the best team won tonight,” said Suns manager Tripp Keister. “We had an opportunity to win and didn’t come through. We’ll regroup and come out to win it in Game 3 tomorrow.”
Bell drove in runs in the third and fifth innings to help the Power come back to tie the game twice. The big swing came in the 11th, which allowed the Power to capitalize in the fourth inning they batted with the bases loaded in the game.
West Virginia pressed the Suns in the 11th when Kawika Emsley-Pai singled and took second on Moroff’s single off Hagerstown reliever Justin Thomas. Keister elected to bring in Cody Davis, who allowed Walker Gourley to single in the only batter he faced.
Hagerstown turned to Bryan Harper in the situation. Bell drove a shot into the left-center field gap with the runners on the move. The three came down the third-base line in procession. The first two runners scored, but Gourley was out at the plate. Justin Steranka singled to drive in Bell for the insurance run.
“You got to give them credit,” Keister said. “They made the pitches when they had to and just played better than we did.”
The Suns got a one-out single by Mike McQuillan against Cesar Lopez in the 11th, but couldn’t mount a rally.
Hagerstown had three one-run leads in the game, but West Virginia answered — the Bell — on each occasion to stay in step and keep the Suns from gaining momentum from the surprisingly large crowd at the game, including a number of fans from Charleston, W.Va.
The Suns jumped on West Virginia in the first inning, scoring a run off Power starter John Kochno.
Isaac Ballou and Tony Renda led off with singles to left before designated hitter Wander Romos loaded the bases by drawing a one-out walk. The runs scored when Power second baseman Chris Diaz couldn’t cleanly handle McQuillan’s grounder.
West Virginia tied the game in the top of the second against Suns starter Pedro Encarnacion. Eric Wood led off by reaching on a throwing error by shortstop Stephen Perez and took second on a wild pitch. Raul Fortunato immediately singled to center to score Wood with the tying run.
The Suns regained the lead with a run in the third as Ballou led off with a double to right and took third on a passed ball before scoring on Shawn Pleffner’s one-out grounder to second for the 2-1 lead.
The Power tied it back up in the fifth when Diaz walked and Moroff singled to end Encarnacion’s night. Gourley greeted reliever Dakota Bacus with a single to right to load the bases, setting the table for Bell’s sacrifice fly to the wall in center to make it a 2-2 game.
Hagerstown reestablished the lead in the fifth, using its brand of hustle.
Pedro Severino led off the inning with a double to left. He broke to third on Perez’s grounder to second and kept running as Diaz left home plate uncovered. Severino beat Steranka’s throw home from first to put the Suns back on top at 3-2.
The Power wouldn’t go away, scoring an unearned run in the seventh against Hagertown reliever Dakota Bacus. Diaz was hit by a pitch and reached second when Perez dropped Severino’s throw after Severino fielded Moroff’s bunt in front of the plate. Gourley rolled a sacrifice bunt to third to advance the runners.
Bell drove in the tying run with a grounder to Renda to make it 3-3.