Bill Hass on Greensboro Grasshoppers Baseball:Advantage Hagerstown

from Bill Hass with the Bill on Baseball Blog, at

Advantage Hagerstown

If Tuesday night was a playoff preview, the result was advantage Hagerstown.

The Suns, playing like a team that is driving toward the second half championship of the SAL’s Northern Division, laid an 8-0 drubbing on the Hoppers, who looked like they are merely playing out the string.

The Suns lead the division by 3 1/2 games over Hickory and 4 1/2 over West Virginia with six contests remaining in the regular season. These things are rarely easy to nail down, but Hagerstown would have to go into a major swoon not to win the second half.

As it looks now, they will make the playoffs and meet the Hoppers, winners of the first half.

The good news for Greensboro is there are two more games in this series and four games left at Lakewood to get back to playing winning baseball. There had been five games scheduled in four days at Lakewood, one of them a makeup of a rainout at NewBridge Bank Park. Since that game will have no bearing on the second-half race, it will not be played.

At any rate, the Hoppers need to turn things around. The pitching, which was outstanding on a 7-game road trip, surrendered 13 hits to the Suns. Hagerstown’s No. 9 hitter, Bryce Ortega, had a home run, triple and double, four RBIs and three runs scored. He was hitting .267 with no home runs and just 10 extra base hits in 71 games.

And the offense was shut out for the third time in four games. Going back over the last 45 innings — 36 at Augusta and 9 Tuesday — Greensboro has scored in just two of them.

The Hoppers managed just three hits against three Suns pitchers. Brent Keys doubled in the first, Matt Smith doubled in the second and that was it until Aaron Senne’s two-out single in the ninth.

The only highlight of the night for Greensboro was a defensive play in the fifth inning. Shortstop Austin Nola made a dive to his right to backhand a hot grounder and threw a one-hopper to first base from a crouching position. Ryan Rieger made a terrific stretch and kept his foot on the bag for the out.

The rest of the game is best forgotten.

Two players are dinged up and out for a few days — Ryan Goetz, the team’s hottest hitter, was hit on the elbow and John Schultz was hit on the fingers.

Scott Lyman draws the stating assignment for Wednesday’s game in place of Austin Brice, who is on the disabled list.