from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball, at www.gsohoppers.com:
Hoppers grab opener behind Heaney
When it comes to the playoffs, just find a way to win.
That’s what the Hoppers did Wednesday night, resulting in a 3-1 victory over Hagerstown in the opening game of their best-of-3 Northern Division series. The scene shifts to NewBridge Bank Park Friday night at 7 o’clock. A win by the Hoppers will send them to the South Atlantic League Championship series. A win by the Suns will force a third game Saturday night.
Greensboro won Wednesday by scoring three runs without an RBI and because Andrew Heaney pitched seven shutout innings. Heaney, the Marlins’ No. 1 draft pick in June, was dominant, allowing only four hits and one walk while striking out eight. His performance was even better than the last time he faced the Suns, on Aug. 30, when he held them to two runs in six innings and fanned nine.
This time, of course, there was more pressure and the left-hander handled it masterfully. The closest the Suns came to scoring against him was in the bottom of the seventh. With two outs, Justin Miller got an infield single and moved to second on a wild pitch. Brett Newsome reached safely on an error, putting runners at the corners.
Pitching coach Blake McGinley visited the mound and decided to leave Heaney in the game, although Kevin Cravey was ready to go in the bullpen. Heaney ran the count to 3-and-2 on J.R. Higley, then caught him looking for a strikeout to end the inning.
Cravey pitched the 8th and the Suns parlayed a walk, a single, a wild pitch and a fielder’s choice into a run. But Cravey got Adrian Nieto to ground out to end the threat.
Nick Wittgren came on for the ninth and retired the Suns in order for the save.
Offensively, the Hoppers had a strange night, getting 10 hits, all singles. Aaron Senne had three of them and seven other players had one each, but nobody could drive in a run. Brent Keys, the team catalyst, scored twice.
The Hoppers scored in the top of the first when Keys, on first base with two outs, advanced to third on a single by Josh Adams. On the throw to the infield, Adams got hung up between first and second so Keys broke for home and was ruled safe on a close play for a 1-0 lead.
That stood until the top of the sixth. Keys beat out a bunt single and, after two outs, Senne singled with Keys stopping at second. Ryan Rieger got an infield single and, when second baseman Cutter Dykstra’s throw was wild, Keys came in to score and Senne went to third. Senne scored on a wild pitch by Christian Meza to boost the lead to 3-0, enough for the Hoppers to win it.
Jake Esch is scheduled to pitch Friday’s game for the Hoppers with Wirken Estevez slated for the Suns.
In the Southern Division playoffs, Rome topped Asheville 5-3 in their series opener. The Braves built a 5-0 lead and held the Tourists hitless for eight innings. Asheville got two hits and scored three times in the top of the ninth before the rally was stopped. That series shifts to Asheville Friday and the Tourists must win to force a third game Saturday.
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