The Will call on Monday’s Hopper finale with the Legends

from Will Cornelius Hoppers’ media:

Hoppers’ Arms Shutout Legends, Split Series

GREENSBORO, NC — The Grasshoppers, who dropped two straight after winning the series opener, took care of business in Monday’s finale, salvaging the series split by coasting past the Lexington Legends 5-0.

Hoppers’ starter Graham Johnson (6-7), winless in his last 10 outings, dominated the Legends’ lineup early. The right-hander allowed two Lexington hits in the first inning, but bounced back to retire the side with the help of Isaac Galloway’s running catch in deep centerfield.

Jordan Lyles, a top prospect in the Astros system, found himself in a similar pickle in the opening frame, surrendering a pair of singles to Galloway and Jake Smolinski, but used a line double play to move past the first inning hiccup.

Johnson allowed two more base hits in the second inning, but once again managed to escape unscathed, this time leaving runners stranded at second and third. His counterpart, Lyles, failed to work out of his second inning jam, allowing two runners to reach safely with nobody out.

Ben Lasater and Thomas Hickman, who reached on a single and walk, respectively, each acted as a catalyst for the Hoppers’ two-run inning. Lasater scored the first run of the inning for the home club, hustling from second base after a fly ball bounced off the centerfielder’s glove.

With Hickman at third after the error, leadoff man Paul Gran stepped to the plate and delivered a two-out single to right field to plate the Hoppers’ final run of the inning.

Johnson, now pitching with a two-run cushion, continued to carve up the visitors’ line up in the following inning. The righty managed to strike out two, but was forced to record four outs after a wild pitch allowed one strikeout victim to reach base safely.

Johnson would go on to finish the day with just two strikeouts, but more importantly turned in a quality start, forgetting the two-inning meltdown from his last outing. He issued three walks for the night, but pitched past the command issues to hold Lexington scoreless over five solid innings.

The Hoppers’ offense gave him plenty of support throughout the night as well, tagging Lyles for another pair of runs in the third, extending Johnson’s already comfortable lead to four runs.

The Hoppers’ third featured plenty of two-out magic and began once again with Lasater and Hickman. Lasater ignited the rally with a two-out walk, and sped around the bases after Hickman’s extended at-bat turned into an RBI double into the right field corner.

Hickman, hitting at a .385 clip over his last eight games, reached third base easily on the errant throw from the outfield, and eventually scored when Justin Bass served an RBI single down the third baseline.

The Grasshoppers would add an insurance run in the seventh, but the story of the night was undoubtedly Johnson and the bullpen, who combined for just their fourth shut out of the season.

Bryan Evans came on in relief first for the Hoppers, and continued exactly where his predecessor left off. Evans tossed two perfect innings of relief, recording six quick outs, with two going down via the strikeout.

Ramon Benjamin, got the call next for the Hoppers, and stayed on to work the final two innings of the game. The hard-throwing lefty allowed just one hit while fanning three of his own.

The staff combined for seven strikeouts on the evening, and scattered only six hits en route to their second shutout of the second half. Johnson, who held an opposing team scoreless for the first time all season, kept the Legends guessing all night to pick up the win, his sixth of the season.

The Hoppers (55-68) will carry the momentum from the win into their upcoming series against the Asheville Tourists at McCormick Field. The two teams will meet tonight for game one of the four-game set, with the Hoppers set to return home Saturday, August 29th for their final home stand of the 2009 campaign.

The first pitch of the August 29th home match up is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

Will Cornelius
Media Relations, Intern
Greensboro Grasshoppers Baseball