Bill Hass on Baseball:Keefer, bullpen help Hoppers eclipse Suns

Posted by Guest Columnist on June 7, 2014 at 10:16 am under Professional | Comments are off for this article

“Ugly start, great finish,” said manager David Berg. “We made those errors early and that can be hard to come back from, but we didn’t fold.”

Keefer, bullpen help Hoppers eclipse Suns

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

Cody Keefer feels in rhythm now.

The Hoppers right fielder continued his excellent play Friday night, getting two hits, an RBI and scoring three times — including the go-ahead run — as Greensboro beat Hagerstown 8-7.

The Hoppers clawed back within six games of the Northern Division-leading Suns with nine games remaining in the first half. Any combination of Hagerstown wins and Hoppers losses totaling four will eliminate Greensboro. The same goes for Delmarva, tied with the Hoppers for second place.

It could have been a deflating game for the Hoppers. They committed four errors, including two by shortstop Javier Lopez on the first two plays of the game. They fell behind 3-0 in the top of the first, came back to take a 5-3 lead, saw the Suns tie it and regained the lead 7-5 only to see the Hagerstown tie it again before finally pulling it out.

“Ugly start, great finish,” said manager David Berg. “We made those errors early and that can be hard to come back from, but we didn’t fold.”

In the bottom of the seventh, Keefer beat out an infield hit, moved to third on Rehiner Cordova’s single and scored on a sacrifice fly by Yefri Perez. In 26 games back with the Hoppers after starting the season in Jupiter, Keefer is hitting .340 and has scored 20 runs.

“I think anybody has a negative attitude when they’re sent down,” Keefer said. “When I got here, I settled in and tried to stay positive. I missed a couple of weeks late in spring training when I hurt my groin and now I’m finally got my rhythm going.

“It feels good. I’m sticking with my approach and not trying to do too much. You don’t get much of a crowd in Jupiter and it’s like a college atmosphere here.”

Manager David Berg said Keefer, who hits seventh or eighth in the lineup, has been consistent and gives the team a threat at the bottom of the order. Keefer was with the Hoppers last year but didn’t hit anything like this (.240 in 97 games).

“He’s getting more hard-hit balls,” said hitting coach Frank Moore. “He’s attacking the zone with the barrel of the bat, being aggressive and making solid contact in hitter’s counts. He has a great attitude with the opportunity to play every day.”

Another key part of the game was the Hoppers’ bullpen. Starter Jarlin Garcia was touched for seven runs (three unearned) and 10 hits but relievers Tyler Kinley and Sean Donatello slammed the door from there. Kinley retired all five batters he faced and picked up the win while Donatello was overpowering in the ninth inning to record his eighth save.

“They were outstanding,” said pitching coach Jeremy Powell. “They didn’t allow the pressure (of Hagerstown baserunners) to bother them. Kinley was a little erratic when I saw him last year but here he’s had control with plus stuff. Sean was locked in and brought his A game with his fastball.”

Donatello struck out the first batter looking, then gave up a bunt single to Wilmer Difo, the Suns’ most dangerous player. Throwing over to first on several occasions to keep the runner close, Donatello stayed focused and struck out John Wooten and Spencer Kieboom to end the game. He blew three high fastballs by Kieboom at 93, 94 and 94 on the scoreboard radar gun.

“(Powell) has been telling us all year we have to slow down the running game,” Donatello said. “You have to separate the runner from the hitter, decide if you’re going to throw to first or to the plate, then make your pitch and be effective.”

NOTES: Kentrell Dewitt went on the disabled list with a wrist injury and Cordova was activated … The versatile Cordova played third base Friday and contributed two hits, an RBI and a fine fielding play to throw out a batter on a bunt late in the game … “I love that guy,” Berg said. “He always gives us energy and comes ready to play. I’ll take 25 guys like him any day.” … Avery Romero had three hits and Perez drove in two runs … Matt Milroy draws the starting assignment for game 3 of the series Saturday at 7 p.m.

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