Bill Hass on Baseball:Hoppers roll to 7th straight win

Posted by Guest Columnist on July 5, 2014 at 10:01 am under Professional | Comments are off for this article

“Tonight was a special night,” Avery Romero said. “The fans were awesome. It’s always good to win a July fourth game.”

Hoppers roll to 7th straight win
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at…..

One sign that a team is playing well is the way its players battle.

Sean Townsley didn’t have his best stuff Friday night, but he kept his team in the game by competing. Avery Romero stayed with it on a key at-bat until he found something he could handle.

And the Hoppers kept on winning. They stayed as hot as the fireworks show after the game by beating West Virginia 5-2. It was their seventh straight win and 11th in their last 12. Taking it back to the first half, which they closed with a 10-game winning streak, they have won 33 of their last 42.

A crowd of 9,855 — the eighth-largest in the 10 years of NewBridge Bank Park — watched the Hoppers celebrate yet another win in their first game back after going 6-1 on a road trip.

“Tonight was a special night,” Romero said. “The fans were awesome. It’s always good to win a July fourth game.”

It didn’t bother the Hoppers when they fell behind 2-0 after three innings. With two outs in the bottom of the third, Austin Dean reach on an error and Felix Munoz doubled. Romero had hit a double to deep center in his first at-bat, so the Power wasn’t going to give him an early fastball. He missed a couple of sweeping breaking balls, fouled one off, then grounded a single to right field to score both runners.

“They were throwing me breaking balls,” Romero said. “I was hoping to get another fastball and I out-waited him until I got a pitch I could handle and shoot it through the hole.”

Manager David Berg liked Romero’s approach.

“He got two strikes on him, kept battling, got a pitch to handle, put a good swing on it and got two RBIs,” Berg said.

In the bottom of the fourth, Chad Wallach singled and eventually came around to score on J.T. Riddle’s RBI single to give the Hoppers the lead. They tacked on two insurance runs in the seventh on Wallach’s sacrifice fly and an RBI single by Kentrell Dewitt.

Townsley was coming off a superb outing on the road, throwing eight scoreless innings at Asheville. In this game he gave up a run in the first and another in the third and had baserunners every inning, but put zeroes up in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

“Maybe after my last outing I took it for granted,” said the former High Point University pitcher. “Tonight I struggled to keep the ball down in the zone and I wasn’t making quality pitches in the clutch. I finally got into a little bit of a rhythm and got a lot of ground balls.”

Fifteen of the 18 outs Townsley recorded were on ground balls. The 6-foot-7 left-hander was backed up by nice infield defense, once on a good backhand stop of a hard one-hopper by shortstop Rehiner Cordova and again on Romero’s dive to his left at second base.

“That’s how you gauge what kind of a guy you have,” said pitching coach Jeremy Powell of Townsley. “He stayed under control and kept competing. The angle of his fastball makes it a really tough pitch to hit.”

The bullpen sealed Townsley’s fourth victory in impressive fashion. Ryan Wertenberger retired all six hitters he faced and Tyler Kinley had a one-two-three ninth to earn his fifth save. Riddle made a fine defensive play at third base in the seventh by diving to his left to stab a grounder and throwing out the runner.

“The bullpen did what it has been doing,” Powell said. “I had Wertenberger last year (in Batavia) and he’s a lot better now. He pitched under control and didn’t get rattled. Kinley has a strong arm and, in my opinion, two major-league pitches. It’s a matter of him getting innings pitched and experience.”

NOTES: Wallach officially was 1-for-2 to raise his league-leading batting average to .344 … Reliever Sam Alvis was promoted to Jupiter and Tyler Kane was moved up from Batavia to replace him on the roster … Ryan Newell will start for the Hoppers in Saturday’s 7 p.m. game.

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