Bill Hass on Baseball:Big crowd watches Hoppers fall in opener

Posted by Press Release on April 4, 2014 at 11:04 am under Professional | Comments are off for this article

“The environment was a crowd of 9,920, largest attendance ever for a Hoppers opening game and among the top 10 all-time in the park.”

from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at

Big crowd watches Hoppers fall in opener

The thing about baseball is that impressions formed from one game, even the season opener, can change completely the next day.

The Hoppers wound up on the losing end of the season’s first game Thursday night, falling to the Hickory Crawdads 8-3. While everyone wants to look good in the first game, the losing team just has to shrug it off. There are 139 more to play in the season.

“I don’t put too much weight on opening night,” said manager David Berg. “We played OK, probably not as bad as the score indicated. A lot of guys hadn’t been in this kind of environment before and when that happens, you never know what you’ll see.”

The environment was a crowd of 9,920, largest attendance ever for a Hoppers opening game and among the top 10 all-time in the park.

Early on, the Hoppers gave the fans plenty to get excited about. Austin Dean slugged a solo home run in the bottom of the first inning and Greensboro led 3-1 after three innings.
But things spiraled down from there, with the offense getting shut out the next six innings and the bullpen faltering after starter Max Garner left.

Garner delivered a solid five innings, allowing seven hits but just two runs, one of them unearned. He walked one and struck out one.

“He got a lot of ground balls and early contact,” said pitching coach Jeremy Powell. “He limited the damage. It was a good job.”

Garner said he was satisfied with his performance.

“The guys who got hits didn’t make strong contact,” he said. “They just found some holes.

“It was a great crowd and atmosphere. I think everyone understands how special this place is. It’s good to get the first game under out belts and get the jitters out.”

Garner had a 3-2 lead when he left the game but Hickory jumped on reliever Miguel del Pozo for four runs in the sixth. He never got into a rhythm, walking the first batter and being touched for four hits, including three doubles, as the Crawdads seized a 6-3 lead. Matt Milroy and C.J. Robinson each surrendered a run.

“You try to prepare guys for these situations, but they got a little overwhelmed,” Powell said. “In the sixth inning (del Pozo) got behind in the count and then had to throw too many pitches over the plate and paid for it. It was a learning experience for everyone.”

The Hoppers had a chance to perhaps break the game open in the fourth inning against Hickory’s Collin Wiles, who relieved starter Cole Wiper. Wiles, a first-round draft pick by Texas in 2012, was shaky when he entered. The Hoppers loaded the bases with two outs, helped by two Hickory errors, but Dean hit into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.

Wiles threw three shutout innings and picked up the win. Relievers Ryne Slack, Yohander Mendez and Abel de los Santos threw a scoreless inning apiece.

Greensboro had plenty of runners during the game, but stranded 11. Besides Dean’s homer, RBIs came from Chad Wallach and Victor Castro.

The second game of the series will be played tonight. Jarlin Garcia, a left-hander, will start for the Hoppers.

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