“Make it as simple as possible,” Carlos Lopez said. “See the ball, hit the ball. Let it get deep (in the strike zone). I came into the season wanting to hit .300 with 50 RBIs and 50 runs scored.”
Four hits from “All-Time” pace Hoppers
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at www.gsohoppers.com…
As someone approached Carlos Lopez after Wednesday’s game, Austin Dean couldn’t resist a dig.
“Hey, All-Time,” Dean said. “They’re looking for you.”
“All-Time” is what teammates are calling Lopez after setting the Hoppers’ record for most hits in a season. Austin Barnes held the mark with 152 hits, accomplished two years ago. Lopez surpassed that total Tuesday, then added to it with four more hits in Wednesday’s 11-2 rout of Delmarva.
So Lopez now tops the Hoppers’ all-time hits list with 158, and there are still five games remaining in the regular season. So what’s his secret?
“Make it as simple as possible,” Lopez said. “See the ball, hit the ball. Let it get deep (in the strike zone). I came into the season wanting to hit .300 with 50 RBIs and 50 runs scored.
I really didn’t know what good numbers were in a full season.”
Lopez has far surpassed those figures. His average is now .322, he leads the team with 81 runs scored (including three Wednesday), is second with 73 RBIs, second with 26 doubles and first with 58 walks drawn.
Wednesday’s game was typical of how well Lopez, a left-handed hitter, handles the bat. After striking out in the first inning, he got an infield hit to third base in the fourth inning, a ground ball single between first and second base in the sixth, a ground ball single between third and short in the seventh and another grounder to right field in the eighth.
“He’s had an incredible year,” said manager David Berg. “He has good at-bats and doesn’t quit; he always battles. He’s a competitor.”
After being limited to five hits in Tuesday’s loss, the Hoppers were held in check through five innings Wednesday. Then they broke loose for 10 runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. They accumulated 15 hits — all singles. Dean had two hits and an RBI and scored twice, Brian Anderson had two hits and two runs, J.T. Riddle had two hits and two RBIs and Chad Wallach two hits and three RBIs. Felix Munoz didn’t get a hit but collected two RBIs on a bases-loaded walk and a groundout. He’s up to 89 RBIs for the year, third in the SAL.
Riddle had perhaps the game’s biggest hit when he cracked a two-run single in the sixth to push the Hoppers in front for good, 4-2.
Wallach got hits his last two at-bats to snap a 1-for-14 slump since he came off the disabled list after a concussion.
“I’m starting to feel a little better,” Wallach said. “The headaches are gone and I’m not having any side effects. That was my second concussion and it was far worse than the first. It was the first time I didn’t remember what happened. Everything was foggy.”
Berg said the coaches told Wallach to “stay up the middle and hit the ball the other way,” which is exactly what he did on his two hits.
The pitching was solid. Starter Jose Adames gave the Hoppers five innings with 10 strikeouts. He got into big trouble in the fourth when he loaded the bases with no outs and then gave up a two-run double. But he settled down and wound up striking out the side with no further runs scoring.
“He did a great job limiting the damage there,” said pitching coach Jeremy Powell.
At one point Powell visited the mound with trainer Ben Cates after Adames apparently had some tightness in his calf.
“He was OK,” Powell said. “We were glad to get five innings out of him and give him a chance for the win.”
The win ultimately went to Ryan Wertenberger, who threw two innings. Miguel del Pozo and Tyler Kinley added an inning apiece. Together, the three relievers pitched four shutout innings, allowed just one hit and no runs and struck out three.
The Hoppers finish the home portion of their regular season Thursday at 7 p.m. Jarlin Garcia will start for Greensboro, although he’s limited to four innings.
The playoffs are looming and Hagerstown needs just one more win to clinch the spot opposite the Hoppers in the first round.
“We’ve been ready for the playoffs to start since we won the first half,” Lopez said. “We know playoff games are usually close, so we have to go back to doing the little things that win games — moving guys over on the bases and getting them in. You have to have those manufactured runs. You can’t get lackadaisical; you have to keep improving every day.”