Bill Hass on Baseball:Hoppers rebound and top Suns 8-4

Posted by Guest Columnist on June 22, 2014 at 1:09 pm under Professional | Comments are off for this article

“It’s all about momentum,” said hitting coach Frank Moore. “We were flat the last two nights and we came out with more energy and fight tonight.”

Hoppers rebound and top Suns 8-4
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at

The Summer Solstice arrived Saturday, and so did the Greensboro Grasshoppers.

After winning the Northern Division’s first half to qualify for the postseason, the Hoppers scuffled when the standings re-set for the second half. They were pummeled twice by Hagerstown but rebounded with an 8-4 win over the Suns.

The Hoppers were held to just one hit Friday and the first six batters were set down in order by the Suns’ Lucas Giolito to begin Saturday’s game. Then Chad Wallach cracked a home run to left field to lead off the bottom of the third and Cody Keefer followed with another to right field. Those shots seemed to jump-start the offense, which went on to record 12 hits.

“It’s all about momentum,” said hitting coach Frank Moore. “We were flat the last two nights and we came out with more energy and fight tonight.”

Moore said the hitters laid off Giolito’s off-speed pitches, waited for his fastball and then put good swings on it. In the slang of today’s players, the hitters were able to get to the pitcher’s “velo,” short for velocity.

“We knew he had good velo,” Keefer said, “so we were looking fastball. Chad did and and then I did the same thing. Their pitcher stayed in the zone and we sat on the heaters.”

Wallach said his homer was a matter of good timing.

“I got one on the barrel and sometimes you get lucky,” he said. “I think (the back-to-back homers) gave the team a little spark and we finished the game well. We didn’t play well the last two nights, and we have to act like we still have something to prove.”

Wallach, Keefer, Austin Dean, J.T. Riddle and Rehiner Cordova each had two hits. Wallach scored three runs, Cordova scored a pair and Riddle had three RBIs.

Riddle also made one of the game’s biggest plays in the bottom of the fifth. The Suns led 3-2 when Cordova singled and scored on Riddle’s double. Dean then singled to short center, where Rafael Bautista charged the ball and fired home. Manager David Berg waved the runner around third and the throw was in time, but Riddle somehow avoided the tag by catcher Spencer Kieboom and scored the run, putting the Hoppers ahead for good, 4-3.

“Sometimes you’ve got to take chances and try to make things happen,” Berg said. “I sent (Riddle) and he made an unbelievable slide.”

It was a gratifying game for Dean, who missed 21 games after tearing a ligament in his finger and then breaking his nose. It was frustrating for him not to be able to contribute as the Hoppers won their final 10 games to win the first half.

“I had to be a bench guy and cheer everyone on,” he said. “I’m so proud of the way these guys came from seven games behind all the way to first place.”

Dean struck out and popped up in his first two trips, then regrouped and got the RBI on Riddle’s terrific slide and later belted a run-scoring triple.

“I really rushed myself the first two times up,” he said. “So I took some deep breaths to slow down and stay calm.”

The offense helped pitcher Jarlin Garcia improve his record to 7-2. Garcia was high in the zone to start the game and was tagged for a leadoff homer by Narciso Mesa followed by a triple by Wilmer Difo, who scored on Drew Ward’s single. Difo also belted a solo homer in the third inning.

“He bounced back after the first inning and pitched really well, other than (Difo’s) homer,” said pitching coach Jeremy Powell. “He did a good job getting through seven innings.”

In the sixth, after a runner reached third with one out, Garcia got a strikeout and flyout to end the inning. He threw two wild pitches and gave up a run in the seventh, but got a strikeout and retired the dangerous Difo on a groundout.

“I thought he made some of his best pitches in the sixth and seventh innings,” Powell said. “That’s what you want to see when they’re tired.”

Tyler Kinley pitched the eighth, helping himself with a pickoff, and Sean Donatello finished it off in the ninth.

Domingo German will start today when the series concludes with a 4 p.m. game.

NOTES: The Marlins released pitcher Josh Easley, so the Hoppers are two pitchers short, carrying just 11 for the time being … When Dean came off the DL, Coco Johnson went on with a pulled hamstring.

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