Bill on Baseball:Hoppers win again in dramatic fashion

Bill Hass on Greensboro Grasshoppers baseball from

Hoppers win again in dramatic fashion

The drama continued for the Greensboro Grasshoppers Friday night.

After winning their home opener 6-4 with a three-run rally in the eighth inning Thursday night, they followed with a walk-off win in the ninth inning over Lakewood at NewBridge Bank Park, 2-1.

On Thursday, a single by Matt Juengel drove in the go-ahead run. Friday, Juengel came through again, with his two-out single scoring Yordy Cabrera with the winning run. Cabrera had opened the inning with a line drive triple off the right field wall, but it looked like he might be stranded at third when Viosergy Rosa and Cody Keefer struck out. But Juengel’s solid line drive to left field touched off an early-season celebration by the players and the fans.

“I got a pitch I could drive,” Juengel said. “Right now the balls are just falling for me.”

He doesn’t mind that his name is being mispronounced as “Jingle” when he comes to the plate. It’s actually pronounced “Yingle.”

“I’ve been answering to ‘Jingle’ or ‘Jingles’ all my life,” he said.

Juengel spent two years as a designated hitter at Texas A&M, so he doesn’t mind that role with the Hoppers.

“He has settled in as the DH,” said manager Jorge Hernandez. “It’s a hard job because you have to be focused on every at-bat. But he’s going to help us some at third base and first base, too.”

The other standout in this game was pitcher Andrew Steckenrider, who also answers to several names.

“Andrew or Drew, either one is fine,” he said. “My teammates call me ‘Steck.’”

The Lakewood hitters probably had a few other names for him Friday. Steckenrider entered the game in the sixth inning and was almost perfect for four innings. He retired the first 11 hitters he faced before walking Angelo Mora with two outs in the top of the ninth. But Mora was thrown out trying to steal second by catcher Tony Caldwell to end the inning.

Steckenrider was dominant, striking out eight batters, mostly with a fastball that Hernandez called “electric” and pitching coach Blake McGinley called “explosive.”

“I’ve never faced it from a hitter’s standpoint, so I have no idea what it does,” said Steckenrider, drafted in the eighth round out of Tennessee last summer. “The main factor for me is location. I really had my stuff today and when I missed my spots, Tony did a really great job of framing the pitch.”

Caldwell shifted all the credit back to the pitcher.

“He came in lights out and threw the ball right to the glove,” Caldwell said. “His fastball tumbles down in the zone and it’s real heavy. It was a Jose Fernandez fastball, real easy to catch.”

McGinley said Steckenrider was really locked in and repeated his delivery well, a point of emphasis for all members of the staff.

Steckenrider is in a piggyback situation with Brian Ellington. The first time their spot in the rotation came up, at Hickory last week, Steckenrider started and Ellington came out of the bullpen and picked up the win. This time, Ellington started and battled his way through five innings. He allowed nine runners — five hits, two walks and two hit batters — but only one run. He got out of a bases-loaded mess in the fifth by getting Willie Carmona to hit into a double play.

The Hoppers boosted their record to 6-3. The series with the BlueClaws continues Saturday with Austin Brice taking the mound for the Hoppers at 7 o’clock.