from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball at www.gsohoppers.com….
Matt Juengel was tired of seeing zeroes beside his name but Blake Logan was glad to see zeroes continue next to his.
Both players, and their resulting statistics, were key factors Thursday night as the Greensboro Grasshoppers won their home opener at NewBridge Bank Park, beating Lakewood 6-4. The Hoppers improved to 5-3 on the season.
When Juengel came to the plate for his first at-bat in the bottom of the second inning, the scoreboard showed his name and head shot with a batting average of .000. He responded with a single that drove in Jesus Solorzano with the Hoppers’ first run of the game.
“I wanted to get my average up to something,” Juengel said. “I was looking for my first hit of the season and I got my first RBI.”
In the bottom of the 8th, he came up with the score tied 4-4 and hit another single that again scored Solorzano and pushed the Hoppers into the lead.
“(The BlueClaws) had their infield in, so I was looking for a fastball that I could elevate,” Juengel said.”As it turned out, I got a curve and I hit it in the hole.”
The Hoppers added another run to push the lead to 6-4 and then turned the game over to their closer, Blake Logan. He made quick work of Lakewood, getting two flyouts to center fielder Juancito Martinez and then getting a called third strike on Chace Numata to end the game. It was his third save in three opportunities in the young season.
“He’s got the mentality to be a closer,” said pitching coach Blake McGinley. “He’s fearless. He can throw three pitches for strikes and he keeps his fastball down.”
Logan is not completely new to the role. At Eastern Oklahoma State he was mostly a starter but also spent half a season as a closer in his freshman year. Drafted by the Marlins in the 13th round last summer, he was sent to Jamestown and started eight games, producing a 1-2 record with a sparkling 1.74 ERA. This spring he was told he might fit the role as the closer in Greensboro. It didn’t matter to Logan, as long as he got the chance to pitch.
“I’m a little different,” he said of his approach to closing. “When I come in a game, I don’t want to give up a hit at all.”
So far, Logan has appeared in three games, pitched three innings, surrendered just one hit and recorded three saves. Oh, and he hasn’t given up a run, which keeps his ERA at 0.00. In spring training he added a changeup to his fastball and slider so now hitters aren’t sure what’s coming.
“I just go in and hit my location,” he said. “If I do that, hitters will usually get themselves out.”
Juengel didn’t make the Hoppers’ roster out of spring training but manager Jorge Hernandez told him to keep working “because you never know what can happen.” As it turned out, two former Hoppers infielders — Terrence Dayleg (knee) and Noah Perio (hamstring) — were injured in Jupiter. Ross Wilson was sent from the Hoppers to the Hammerheads and that opened the spot for Juengel.
“I was disappointed to be left in extended spring training,” Juengel said, “but they told me to keep my head up and I could be here soon. I joined the team in Rome and played one game there but didn’t do too well (0-for-4).”
Several other Hoppers played key roles in front of the crowd of 8,243. Yeison Hernandez had two RBIs, one on a groundout and one on a sacrfice fly. Viosergy Rosa had three hits, including a triple. Lakewood center fielder Carlos Tocci tried for a diving catch on that play and missed, with the ball rolling to the fence. Hernandez threw up the “stop” sign at third base.
“Anyone else, it would have been an inside-the-park home run,” Hernandez said with a smile. “But I know his speed. He was pretty much out of gas by the time he reached third.”
Ramon Del Orbe started and surrendered three runs in the first inning, then came back with four shutout innings. McGinley said he adjusted by keeping the ball down in the strike zone, throwing his fastball with sinking action. Andy Beltre worked two scoreless innings. Dane Stone gave up a solo home run in the top of the 8th that put Lakewood ahead 4-3, but he wound up as the winning pitcher for the third time this season when the Hoppers rallied with three runs in the bottom of the inning.
One impressive stat for the pitchers — no walks. The staff had given up 30 prior to Thursday’s game.
Brian Ellington will start tonight’s game for the Hoppers. Drew Steckenrider will be the second pitcher in a piggyback situation.