from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball at www.gsohoppers.com:(Be sure to check out all of Bill’s blogs at the Greensboro Grasshoppers’ site.)
Lyman helps Hoppers rebound
Scott Lyman’s baseball dreams have taken a turn he didn’t expect, but he’s fine with that.
“If you had told me three years ago that I would be pitching in pro ball, I would have called you crazy,” the Hoppers’ right-hander said Wednesday night.
There was nothing crazy about the way Lyman pitched against Hagerstown, putting up seven shutout innings. Kevin Cravey and Greg Nappo pitched a scoreless inning apiece to close out a 4-0 win over the Suns.
It was an important turnaround from Tuesday night, when the Hoppers were drubbed by the Suns 8-0. Austin Barnes made sure the offense wouldn’t be shut out again when he hit his 12th home run of the year in the first inning. He drove in another run with a single and Brent Keys and Ryan Rieger added RBIs as the Hoppers built their lead after four innings and made it stand up.
“A much better effort,” said manager David Berg. “Lyman threw well with good pitching efficiency. He pitched to contact, which is the same thing you have to do in the big leagues. You can’t be afraid to throw the ball over the plate.”
Lyman did it mainly by sticking with his fastball, which he said he threw 69 out of 77 pitches. He didn’t strike out a single batter, letting the fielders work behind him.
“I was mostly throwing it down the middle and they were chopping it into the ground early in the count,” he said. “So we decided to stick with it.”
Lyman allowed three hits and three walks and recorded 11 ground-ball outs. The defense backed him up with double plays in the first two innings, along with several other nice plays. Keys ran down a long fly in left-center field in the fifth inning that saved one and possibly two runs. Barnes contributed some good plays at second base.
It was the best effort of the season for Lyman, appearing in his 14th game. He was pounded hard in his first several outings but began to turn things around recently. He pitched five innings of relief in Augusta, allowing only one unearned run, before this start.
“It’s all about him getting comfortable and repeating his delivery,” said pitching coach Blake McGinley. “He’s using his fastball more and it’s got some angle in the strike zone.”
Pitching is still new to Lyman. In college at Cal-Davis, he was an outfielder who pitched once a week. He was impressive enough on the mound that when the Marlins drafted him in the 10th round last year, they wanted him as a pitcher.
“This is the most I’ve thrown as a pro,” he said of his seven-inning stint. “I might have thrown eight or nine innings one time in college.
“The thing I like now is I don’t have to hit and play the field between starts. I can concentrate on pitching because I have all this time now. My goal is to stay consistent and focused and not try to do too much, let the game come to me.”
An odd aspect to Wednesday’s game was that the final 6 1/2 innings were played with one umpire. Drew Maher began the game behind home plate but was hit on the hand by a pitch and had to leave the game. Base umpire Junior Valentine went to the locker room and put on the home plate gear and finished the game by himself, running to the infield to be in position for a call whenever the ball was put in play.
“I can’t remember seeing that before,” Berg said. “I don’t think he missed any calls, either.”
The teams wrap up the three-game series tonight. It’s the final regular-season home game for the Hoppers, who finish with four games in Lakewood. Then come the playoffs, most likely against the Suns, with the first game in Hagerstown Sept. 5 and the second, and third if needed, in NewBridge Bank Park on Sept. 7-8.