Bill Hass, formerly of the Greensboro News and Record and now with The ACC.com and the Greensboro Grasshoppers, with Bill on Baseball at www.gsohoppers.com…
So, I left town for a week and the Hoppers had 8 losses. Missed an entire home stand and when I returned, a week later, they still had 8 losses. That’s some baseball I wish I had been able to see.
At any rate, after gaining a split on the road with an 8-3 win over Lakewood Sunday afternoon, the Hoppers stand 25-10, holding a 5-game lead over Hickory in the Northern Division of the SAL. That’s exactly the halfway point of the first half of the season. You could also say it is the one-quarter point of the whole season, but that’s not the way it’s done in the low minor leagues where the pennant races are split into two halves.
While the Hoppers have been careful to downplay the significance of the standings to this point, now they take on some relevance. The surest way into the playoffs is to win the first half. Once a team has qualified, the second half of the season takes care of itself, albeit with less drama.
Greensboro begins a seven-game home stand Monday night, starting with three games against Kannapolis and followed by four against Lakewood. The successful tandem of Austin Brice and Jose Urena is scheduled to pitch the first game, and it’s Brice’s turn to start. Barring changes in the rotation, Adam Conley is scheduled Monday and Jose Fernandez Tuesday.
This is the first time this season the Hoppers will have seen Kannapolis, a division opponent located 75 miles down the road. On the other hand, by the end of the home stand they will have faced Lakewood, a division opponent about six hours away, 14 times. Go figure.
Sunday, the Hoppers fell behind 2-1 after the first inning but scored two in the fifth, one in the sixth, three in the seventh and one in the eighth. Dejai Oliver picked up the win in relief of starter Charlie Lowell and the two combined for 10 strikeouts in six innings. Greg Nappo, Brad Mincey and Kevin Cravey pitched a scoreless inning apiece to close it out.
Austin Barnes and Brent Keys had three hits each and Matt Smith had a pair of doubles and three RBIs.
If you’re curious as to why the Hoppers have been so successful to this point, here are a few stats to chew on. They are 15-2 in NewBridge Bank Park, the best home record in the league. They are No. 1 in hitting with a .288 average and second in pitching with a 3.42 ERA. That’s a formula to win a lot of games.
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