Back to friendly home field for Hoppers
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball at www.gsohoppers.com
Nothing against Burlington Athletic Park, but the Hoppers will be glad to see First National Bank Field again Thursday night.
After absorbing a 6–0 loss to Hagerstown on Wednesday in Burlington, the Hoppers will play the Suns in a doubleheader. The first of the two 7-inning games will begin at 5 p.m.
Burlington hosted the game (full disclosure: I wasn’t there) because the re-sodded field in Greensboro was fully recovering. The Hoppers are 19–9 at First National this season. While their own locker room, their own home field and their home crowd should help, the Hoppers still have to win a baseball game regardless of the venue.
“The field was in good shape and it was still 90 feet to first base,” manager Todd Pratt said of Burlington in a telephone conversation.
Most importantly, the win pushed first-place Hagerstown to a 3 1/2 game lead over the third-place Hoppers in the SAL Northern Division. The doubleheader will wrap up the brief series, the only meeting between the teams in the first half.
“It would have been nice to have swept them,” Pratt said, “but the object is to win the series and we can do that by winning the doubleheader.”
Doubleheaders can mess with a pitching rotation and that’s the case with the Hoppers. Michael King will start game one, but the Hoppers will need a reliever to make a spot start in the second game. Michael Mertz draws that assignment and the Hoppers would be glad for three innings from him. After that, Pratt said, “there are plenty of arms available” in the bullpen.
The Hoppers had had three days off?—?one scheduled, one rainout and one postponement because of the field. That meant it had been a week since starter L.J. Brewster last pitched. He was tagged for all six runs in his five innings of work.
The big blow was a two-out, three-run shot by Hagerstown’s Daniel Johnson in the third inning. Blake Perkins added a two-run homer in the fifth. Meanwhile, the Hoppers were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 10 runners on base.
“We didn’t get the big hits and they got two home runs,” Pratt summed up.
James Nelson got one hit, a double, to extend his streak to 21 games. Nelson and DH Boo Vazquez were selected to the Northern Division All-Star team for the game in Hickory on June 20.
NOTES: The Miami Herald reported, via an unnamed source, that Braxton Garrett, the Marlins’ ?1 draft pick last year, has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow and may need Tommy John surgery … Garrett started four games for the Hoppers this year after joining the team from extended spring training … Catcher Alex Jones was put on the Batavia roster when Jarett Rindfleisch was activated off the DL … That means the team kept Gunner Pollman, who had replaced Rindfleisch, as the ?2 catcher.