Bill Hass on Baseball:Hoppers make the right plays in 1-0 victory

Posted by Guest Columnist on July 12, 2015 at 1:06 am under Professional | Comments are off for this article

Hoppers make the right plays in 1-0 victory
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at www.gsohoppers…

A taut, tense, exciting game broke out at NewBridge Bank Park Saturday, and for the first time in awhile the Hoppers got the result to go their way.

Greensboro edged West Virginia 1-0 behind a stellar performance from starter Michael Mader, some splendid defense behind him, a clutch double by Rony Cabrera and an excellent throw from center field by Zach Sullivan.

It was the Hoppers’ first one-run win since May 31, when they edged Lakewood 8-7. Since then they had lost six one-run games.

Mader set the tone, allowing just three hits (one through the first seven innings) and becoming the first Hopper starter to throw eight innings this season.

“It felt really good to go eight and keep us in the game,” Mader said. “(Catcher Felix) Castillo and I were really clicking and it’s huge when I don’t have to shake him off and he doesn’t have to keep coming out to the mound.”

Mader said his fastball command, particularly on the inner half of the plate, was the key.

“This is the third time I’ve faced them and I’ve been throwing a lot of changeups,” he said. “The fastball backed them off the plate a bit and made the other pitches more effective.”

Pitching coach Jeremy Powell had the same assessment — fastball command on both sides of the plate.

“His confidence kept building and you could see it as the game went on,” Powell said. “That’s the best I’ve seen him compete all year with the fastball. Until the eighth inning, only two runners reached second base.”

Mader threw 94 pitches and improved his record to 4-7. Kyle Fischer got the save for the second straight night, his sixth of the season.

“We wanted to go with our best guy,” Powell said. “We didn’t know if the game was going into extra innings, so Fischer was going in whether the score was tied or not.”

While the Power didn’t threaten until the eighth and ninth innings, the Hoppers had chances in the second and seventh innings but couldn’t deliver a big hit. Austin Coley matched zeroes with Mader for five innings and Jose Regelado for two more.

In the eighth, Mader gave up a one-out single and double to put two runners in scoring position. Jeff Roy hit a line drive to center that Sullivan caught, knowing the runner on third was tagging up. Sullivan then fired a one-hopper to Castillo, who tagged out Tyler Filliben for the double play to end the inning.

“You release the throw as quickly as possible,” Sullivan said. “It’s not how hard you throw, it’s how quickly. I thought when it left my hand it was a good throw, then I wasn’t sure it was going to get there in time, but Castillo made a good tag.”

As often happens in baseball, after Sullivan’s fine play he led off the bottom of the eighth inning and worked Regelado for a walk. Ball four came on a 3-and-2 count and he twitched his bat but pulled it back. The Power’s appeal to the base umpire for a strike was waved off.

“My job was to get on base,” Sullivan said, “so I wanted to see as many pitches as possible. If I got the pitch I wanted I was going to swing, but I didn’t get it. I knew I didn’t go around (on ball four) and I was hoping the umpire saw it the same way.”

John Norwood’s sacrifice bunt moved Sullivan to second and Cabrera followed with a double to left field to score the run.

“I had to shorten my swing with two strikes,” said Cabrera, with teammate Jose Velez translating. “He had thrown me some changeups and I was out in front of them. I was thinking changeup but he hung a curve down the middle and I took advantage of it, made contact and put the ball in play.”

The drama wasn’t over. In the top of the ninth, Fischer gave up a leadoff single and compounded that by throwing the ball away on a pickoff throw. A groundout moved the runner, Cole Tucker, to third with one out.

Hoppers manager Kevin Randel pulled the infielders in to the edge of the grass, a move designed for a chance to throw out the runner at the plate. Fischer got Jordan Luplow to hit a one-hopper to Brian Schales at third. Tucker had to hold there as Schales threw to first for the second out.

Fischer then shattered Michael Suchy’s bat, inducing a soft line drive to shortstop Justin Twine to end the game. Twine had two pieces of the bat and the ball coming in his direction, but concentrated on the right object.

“We needed that ball,” Twine said.

Mader liked the way the Hoppers played. Sullivan’s throw was the defensive highlight, but Norwood made two diving catches in right field, Twine made two nice backhanded stops and throws, Mader stabbed a line drive to start a double play, Schales started an around-the-horn double play and K.J. Woods made an excellent stretch to reel in an off-the-mark throw while keeping his foot on the bag at first.

“We played with more passion,” Mader said. “There were dives, backhands, good throws. It was fun to see. That’s the way we should play every night.”

Randel enjoyed the game — blowouts are the ones that make his stomach churn because of the pitching decisions.

“It was a well-played, low A ball game,” he said. “1-0 games are fun for a manager. You roll them out there and let them play.”

NOTES: Twine had three of the Hoppers’ seven hits, all singles … The Hoppers are 5-12 in the second half of the season … The five-game series and the nine-game home stand wrap up Sunday with a 4 p.m. game. Ben Holmes, who pitched seven shutout innings in his last start, will be on the mound for the Hoppers.

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