Bill Hass on Baseball:Hoppers come to life late and post comeback win

Posted by Guest Columnist on May 31, 2015 at 10:11 pm under Professional | Comments are off for this article

Hoppers come to life late and post comeback win
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at www.gsohoppers.com

The Hoppers won a game Sunday that conjured up memories of 2011.

“I haven’t seen one like that in awhile,” manager Kevin Randel said after the Hoppers overcame a seven-run deficit to beat Lakewood 8-7. “We had a few in 2011.”

Randel was the hitting coach for that team, which went on the win the SAL championship. In one game, the Hoppers overcame a 7-1 deficit against Delmarva to post a 10-7 win, keyed by a six-run eighth inning. In another, they scored seven times in the bottom of the eighth to beat the Shorebirds 9-8. Yet another seven-run eighth inning lifted them to a win over Hagerstown.

There was a difference, though. In all those 2011 games the Hoppers at least had showed signs of a pulse, scoring a run or two before each comeback. Sunday, they were dead in the water for 6 2/3 innings, having managed just two singles off BlueClaws starter Josh Taylor while falling behind 7-0. There was little reason to believe they could pull this one out.

But in the bottom of the seventh, Brian Schales drew a two-out walk and Arturo Rodriguez followed with a two-run homer to get the Hoppers on the scoreboard.

“He (Taylor) had used his slider to be dominant all day,” Rodriguez said, with teammate Rodrigo Vigil translating. “But I went up looking for a fastball and he threw one.”

John Norwood came right back with a single on the next pitch and scored when Ryan Aper slashed a double into the right field corner. Suddenly the game was 7-3 and the Hoppers had signs of life.

With Taylor out of the game in the eighth, the Hoppers teed off on Scott Harris. Zach Sullivan opened with a single and moved up on a bunt by Mason Davis. Rony Cabrera singled and Austen Smith’s single scored Sullivan for 7-4.

K.J. Woods’ grounder was fielded by second baseman Derek Campbell, who tried to get the force out at second base but whose throw hit Smith in the back for an error that loaded the bases.

Schales then drilled a double to left field that drove in two runs and cut the lead to 7-6. Rodriguez followed with a sacrifice fly and, improbably, the game was tied.

“I was looking for something up,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted to get the RBI and move the runners.”

He hit the ball so deep to center that not only did Woods score from third but Schales tagged up and moved from second to third, an unnoticed but crucial play. The BlueClaws changed pitchers to Joey DeNato, who uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Schales to score the go-ahead run, capping the five-run rally.

There was still drama to come. Josh Hodges, the fourth pitcher of the day for Greensboro, gave up a leadoff double to Cord Sandberg in the ninth. With one out, Rhys Hoskins hit a soft single to left field and Sandberg was waved around third base.

The Hoppers’ outfielders were playing deep but Norwood charged the ball and fired a one-hop throw to Rodriguez, who got the tag down to nail Sandberg for the second out.

“We were in a no-doubles defense,” Norwood said, “but I heard the ball hit off the end of the bat and my initial read was to come in. It took one hop right to me and I saw him rounding third so I came up firing. I got my whole body into the throw.”

Hodges then struck out Damek Tomscha to end the game and post his sixth save, slapping his glove with glee.

So, will such a dramatic win be a turning point in the season for the Hoppers?

“We’ve been fighting, playing with more energy,” Norwood said. “We’ve got that faith that we can come back. We have to believe in one another. It’s a matter of trust.”

Randel said the club can take the comeback and “put it in our back pocket. We know we can come back from 7-0, and we don’t have to do it with three-run homers all the time.”

The Hoppers head out on a short road trip, three games at West Virginia, and return Thursday for a four-game series against Hagerstown.

NOTES: Luis Castillo picked up his second win … The Hoppers finished with 10 hits, eight in the last one and one-third innings after being stymied by Taylor … Greensboro finished May with a record of 12-18, putting its overall mark at 21-29 … Of the 50 games played, the Hoppers have faced Delmarva and Lakewood a total of 30 times … Lakewood’s Hopkins finished the series 8-for-17 with six RBIs and five runs scored.

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