Bill Hass on Baseball:Alfonzo’s single wins for Hoppers in 9th

Posted by Guest Columnist on August 5, 2016 at 12:26 am under Professional | Comments are off for this article

Alfonzo’s single wins for Hoppers in 9th
from Bill Hass with Biil on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at

For a player who has made contributions with his defense and as an emergency pitcher, Gio Alfonzo got a chance to do something with his bat Thursday night.

The Hoppers’ super utility player singled to right field to drive in Aaron Blanton in the bottom of the ninth inning, giving Greensboro a 4-3 win over Kannapolis.

Greensboro remains a game behind Hagerstown in the SAL’s Northern Division. The Suns are 24-16 and the Hoppers are 23-17. Hickory is third at 22-17 and Lakewood fourth at 21-18. Thirty games remain in the regular season.

Alfonzo has a win and a save on the mound this season, but he ranked Thursday’s hit as his top moment.

“This has to be No. 1 because I did it with my bat,” he said. “Next comes my first professional home run, then the save or the win.”

For much of the season, Alfonzo’s batting average was almost invisible. As recently as June 18 he had dropped to .128 and on July 28 he was only up to .181. But lately he has been one of the team’s hottest hitters, going 12-for-24 over his last seven games.

“I had to change my mental approach,” Alfonzo said. “I could see how low my average was, so I just tried to relax. I had been doing everything too hard, so I tried to quiet my leg kick and soften everything up.”

On the last at-bat, with Blanton on third base after a double and a wild pitch and no one out, manager Kevin Randel suggested he try a squeeze bunt until he had one strike. Alfonzo showed bunt and took one pitch for a ball, bunted the second pitch foul. With the bunt off, he knew what to expect from Kannapolis reliever Mike Morrison.

“The infield was in, the outfield was in and I was looking to see a curve,” he said. “I was sitting on it and it was the perfect pitch for me to hit. I stung it pretty good.”

Morrison was the first right-hander the Hoppers had seen all night. They hit left-handed starter Johnathan Frebis hard — eight hits and three runs in 3 1/3 innings — but were stymied by lefty relievers Michael Horejsei and Alex Katz, who retired 14 straight batters between them.

Blanton, just off the disabled list (strained back), led off the ninth with a double to left-center, his third hit of the game.

“I was seeing the ball well,” he said. “I looked for a fastball but then I knew he would go off-speed and I hit a slider.”

Sitting and watching his teammates while he was on the DL wasn’t easy for Blanton, so he was eager to return to the lineup.

“I could see he was antsy to get back and that’s a good sign,” Randel said. “He’s been feeling good and he got three hits, had the leadoff double and made a great play at third base.”

The Hoppers’ other runs came on an RBI double by Angel Reyes and a single by Justin Twine in the third inning, and Alfonzo’s RBI double in the fourth inning that tied the game 3-3.

Hoppers pitching was sharp in relief of starter Cody Poteet, who was touched for all three runs before being pulled with two outs in the fifth because of pitch count. This late in the season, everyone’s pitches and innings are being monitored closely.

Steven Farnworth and Ryley MacEachern followed with 4 1/3 innings of hitless relief, with MacEachern picking up the win.

Farnworth began the season as the team’s closer, then was moved into the starting rotation. Now he’s back in the bullpen to better manage his innings the rest of the year.

“The suits and ties (Marlins’ front office) wanted him to build up some innings and I agree,” said pitching coach Brendan Sagara. “The move was for his benefit, to give him a chance to face a lot of different hitters. We know he’s solid in the bullpen and he has pitchability.”

Which means what?

“Basically it’s commanding the ball, reading the swings of the hitters and pitching to the situation,” Sagara said. “It’s keeping the ball in good parts of the strike zone so it’s less likely to be hit.”

NOTES: Reyes and Twine each had two hits … Anfernee Seymour stole second and third bases in the third inning and scored on Twine’s single … Seymour now has 36 stolen bases this season … Outfielder Zach Sullivan went on the DL with a lower back injury … The Hoppers lost a key member of the bullpen when lefty Jose Quijada was promoted to Jupiter … His roster spot was filled by Trey Lambert, who was with Hagerstown earlier this season (2-0, 1.89). He was promoted to Potomac in the Carolina League, then released by the Nationals and signed by the Marlins on Aug. 2 … Former Hopper K.J. Woods had an RBI double and a walk for Kannapolis and struck out twice.

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