They are already starting to call this one, “The Marathon Game”….Bill Hass has the inside, on the Greensboro Grasshoppers and the West Virginia Power from Thursday night at NewBridge Bank Park…..Read more from Bill on Baseball at www.gsohoppers.com…)
Where do you even begin to talk about a 19-inning baseball game that lasted 5 hours and 9 minutes?
Start with the fact that the Hoppers won it, 5-4, over West Virginia. I’m sure it was the longest game in the 7-year history of NewBridge Bank Park, although I have to do some research to be sure. The longest I can remember previously was in 2008, when a Mike Stanton home run.m won it for the Hoppers in the bottom of the 16th.
This game started at 7:02 p.m. Thursday and clanked to a halt at 12:11 a.m. “Welcome to Friday!” said PA announcer Jim Scott merrily when the clock hit midnight.
A misty rain — or was it a rainy mist? — fell for most of the extra innings. A few bolts and sheets of lightning were seen and a rumble or two of thunder was heard. The concessions stands were long closed. The bat boys had gone home, so Donald Moore Jr. was pressed into service retrieving bats for both teams and delivering fresh baseballs to the umpire. (I need to check and see how many dozens of baseballs were used.)
Maybe the turning point came in the 19th inning break, when Spaz channeled his inner Tina Turner. Who knows?
At any rate, about 100 or so, maybe fewer, hardy baseball fans remained until Noah Perio scored the winning run from second base on a single by Christian Yelich. It was Yelich who cranked out a two-run home run in the bottom of the 9th that tied the game 2-2.
West Virginia scored twice in the top of the 14th but the Hoppers answered on a sacrifice fly by Isaac Galloway and a pinch-hit RBI single by Aaron Dudley to tie it 4-4.
The Hoppers used six pitchers, with Chris Shafer picking up the win by throwing 3 innings of shutout ball in which he allowed no hits and one walk. Robert Morey started and pitched 7 innings, Michael Brady and Miguel Mejia threw 3 innings apiece, Brett Zawacki pitched 2 and Jordan Conley, who thrown 2 innings Thursday, pitched another. That pretty much blows up the bullpen for tonight’s game, with Grant Dayton about the only reliever available for sure.
A special tip of the hat goes to Kevin Mort of West Virginia. When the Power’s bullpen dried up, the second baseman was asked to take the mound. He had pitched twice for a total of 3 innings this season. I’ve seen position players pitch before — Joe Bonadonna has done it three times for the Hoppers — but never have I seen anyone “take one for the team” like Mort.
He first pitched in the 14th inning and was touched for the runs that tied the game. He came back out for the 15th, then the 16th, 17th, 18th and put up zeroes before the Hoppers got to him in the 19th. Mort didn’t throw hard, but the overanxious Hoppers hitters swung under a lot of pitches and popped them up. Officially, he was charged with a blown save and a loss. But it was one of the gutsiest performances I’ve ever seen.
The upshot of all this was that the Hoppers took three of four against the Power. Kannapolis lost to Augusta, so the SAL Northern Division tightened up. The Intimidators are in first place but lead Hickory, which has won 8 out of 10, by just one game. Lakewood is 2 back, Hagerstown 4 behind and the Hoppers trail by 5 with 10 games to play.
Everyone starts a new series tonight and they will all be 5 games. The Hoppers host Delmarva, Kannapolis travels to Rome, Hagerstown visits Asheville and Hickory is at Lakewood. The BlueClaws have already adjusted their schedule for Hurricane Irene. The teams will play tonight, then at noon Saturday. Sunday’s game, when the weather threat is the worst, has been postponed and made up as part of a double-header Monday. The series wraps up Tuesday.