Bill Hass on Baseball:It’s a long shot now for the Hoppers

Posted by Guest Columnist on June 17, 2017 at 1:10 am under Professional | Comments are off for this article

It’s a long shot now for the Hoppers
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball at

There was some lightning in the sky late Friday night, but none in the Hoppers’ bats.

Delmarva spoiled a stellar pitching performance by Greensboro’s Dylan Lee and hung a 2–0 loss on the Hoppers. It was a costly defeat, leaving them two games behind Kannapolis with two to play in the Northern Division first-half race. One more Kannapolis win or Greensboro loss will eliminate the Hoppers.

“We’re not mathematically out of it,” said manager Todd Pratt, “but we’ve got to win our last two and get some help.”

Kannapolis, with its 8–2 win over West Virginia, retained control of the division. Lakewood took over second place by beating Hickory 6–0 and trails by one game. Hagerstown was thumped by Lexington 14–3 and fell into a tie for third place with the Hoppers, two games behind.

There are a multitude of possibilities remaining, including a perfect storm of circumstances that would see all four teams tie for first place (Greensboro and Hagerstown each win two, Kannapolis loses twice and Lakewood splits).

Bottom line?—?winning the division is a long shot for the Hoppers.

“We’ve got a chance,” said catcher Jarett Rindfleisch. “In baseball, anything can happen. We just have to worry about ourselves and play the best baseball we can play.”

The pitching was certainly good enough Friday, holding Delmarva to three hits. The left-handed Lee was in total command early, retiring the first 14 Shorebirds he faced before giving up a two-out walk in the fifth inning. But Delmarva’s Jhon Peluffo matched the shutout for five innings, scattering five Hoppers hits.

In the top of the sixth, Lee surrendered his first hit, a one-out single by Alejandro Juvier. Juvier then stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Jake Ring, Delmarva’s best hitter.

The Shorebirds added an insurance run in the seventh against reliever Sam Perez on an RBI triple by Collin Woody, who played at UNC Greensboro. Hoppers’ center fielder Corey Bird sprinted hard to his left and tried for a leaping catch at the fence but couldn’t reel it in.

“I came real close,” Bird said. “It went off the heel of my glove. If I had taken a better first step, I would have gotten it.”

After Peluffo exited, Travis Seabrooke and Jake Bray combined to hold the Hoppers at bay over the last four innings. Bray struck out three of the four hitters he faced.

“Dylan mixed his pitches, changed speeds and had all three pitches working,” Rindfleisch said. “We had a good game plan and we executed it. His changeup is usually good but he had something extra on it tonight. He gave us what we needed but we just didn’t pick him up (on offense).”

The Hoppers only got one runner to third base, on Bird’s two-out triple in the third inning. Mason Davis flied out to end the inning.

They had the scenario they wanted in the eighth?—?runners on first and second with two outs and one of the league’s best hitters, James Nelson, at the plate. But Bray struck him out on a high fastball and Nelson bounced his batting helmet in frustration.

“Right man, right time,” Pratt said. “He just lost that battle. Now he has to get ready for another one.

“We hit some ‘right-at-’ems.’ We squared up some balls but couldn’t find the holes.”

Eric Gutierrez was victimized twice, hitting a line drive that right fielder Ring caught in the webbing of his glove on a dive and another liner that was speared by Woody at third base.

NOTES: Colby Lusignan and Aaron Knapp each had two singles … Kolton Mahoney will make his second start since joining the Hoppers when he faces Delmarva in Saturday’s game … “He’s a competitor who attacks the inside part of the plate and has a feel for his off-speed stuff,” said pitching coach Mark DiFelice.

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