Bill Hass on Greensboro Grasshoppers Playoff Baseball:“We’ll see what we’re made of”

from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball at

“We’ll see what we’re made of”

Nobody said much in the Hoppers locker room Thursday night.

They didn’t need to.

Everyone realizes the situation now. Greensboro’s 9-0 loss to Asheville in NewBridge Bank Park put the Tourists ahead 2-1 in the best-of-5 championship series. A win Friday night and the trophy and rings go to Asheville. The Hoppers’ task is simple — win and force Game 5 Saturday.

“We’ve got to flush it (Thursday’s game) and come back tomorrow,” said Matt Smith of the Hoppers. “We’ve got to get it done. Go out and leave it on the field and get it to a game 5 or go home. This situation might be good for us. We can’t relax anymore. We’ve got to put some runs on the board.”

Right fielder Ryan Goetz added: “It’s time for us to battle back. We’ve got to hit, pitch and field better than we have these last two games. We’ll see what we’re made of.”

The first order of business will be to stop the Tourists hitters, who have put 19 runs on the board in Games 2 and 3. All their runs Thursday came on four homers — a three-run blast by Taylor Featherston in the third inning and two-run shots by Ryan Casteel in the fourth, Jared Simon in the seventh and Trevor Story in the seventh.

Starter Jake Esch gave up the first two and reliever Casey McCarthy surrendered the last two.

“We have to keep the ball out of the middle of the plate,” said pitching coach Blake McGinley. “They’re a good-hitting team and they don’t miss those pitches.”

Josh Hodges will draw the starting assignment Friday.

“He just needs to bring it, use his changeup, make good pitches down in the zone and he’ll be fine,” McGinley said.

On the other side, of course, the Hoppers must generate some offense. They have scored in just one of the 18 innings in the last two games and Asheville’s starters have shut them out for 14 innings. Left-hander Tyler Anderson held them to four hits over his seven innings Thursday.

After Brent Keys led off the fourth inning with a single, the Hoppers didn’t get another hit until a one-out single in the ninth by Austin Barnes.

“They’re getting into good (pitcher’s) counts and throwing more off-speed stuff, mixing it up,” Smith said.

Although the Tourists are in command now, nailing down that last game can be elusive. In 2011, the Hoppers trailed Savannah 2-1 and were down to their last strike in Game 4, but came back to win that one and then win Game 5.

“Absolutely it’s not over,” said manager David Berg. “Hopefully Hodges comes out tomorrow and we go from there. We just need to score some runs.”

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