Bill on Baseball:Hoppers head to Delmarva on a down note

from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball at

Hoppers head to Delmarva on a down note

Sometimes a road trip can the best thing for a baseball team.

The Hoppers hit the road to Delmarva Wednesday afternoon, licking their wounds from an 8-1 drubbing at the hands of Savannah. The 7-game home stand that had a promising start with three straight wins finished with three losses in four games. The net result was a 4-3 record, but a team needs to play better than that at home.

“Maybe a change of scenery will help,” said manager Jorge Hernandez. “Sometimes at home you get too comfortable.”

The Sand Gnats took two out of three by playing consistently good baseball. They banged out 35 hits and scored eight runs in each game. Only a dramatic 3-run homer by Viosergy Rosa in the bottom of the ninth on Tuesday salvaged a game in the series for the Hoppers.

“We caught them when they were really hot,” Hernandez said. “They’re a good club and they were aggressive swinging the bats.”

The Hoppers also hit well in the first two games but were stymied by three Savannah pitchers Wednesday. Starter Matt Bowman kept Greensboro off balance for 5 1/3 innings with an assortment of off-speed pitches. Beck Wheeler and Tim Peterson were just as effective finishing up. The Hoppers managed four hits, none after the fourth inning.

“Out of something like 100 pitches, almost 60 of them were off-speed,” Hernandez said.

One bad inning — the same thing that happened in a loss to Lakewood on Sunday — was costly. In the top of the third, Greensboro starter Drew Steckenrider struck out the first two hitters, then couldn’t retire anyone else. A single and three straight walks forced in one run and Gregory Pron’s double cleared the bases for a 4-0 lead. Savannah tacked on two more for good measure.

The key at-bats were by Brandon Nimmo, a thorn in the Hoppers’ side the whole series, and by former Florida State standout Jayce Boyd. Nimmo kept fouling off 3-and-2 pitches until he finally got a single. Boyd did the same and eventually drew a walk and it was downhill from there.

The Hoppers are 8-6 on season (4-3 at home, 4-3 on the road). Austin Brice will start Thursday’s game in Delmarva, followed by Mason Hope Friday, Scott Lyman Saturday and Ramon Del Orbe Sunday. Then comes a most welcome day off before another 7-game home series begins Tuesday against Hickory.

NOTES: Rosa drove in Greensboro’s only run with an RBI double that scored Anthony Gomez … Jesus Solarzano lay on the baseline beyond first base in the ninth inning and eventually limped off the field. Hernandez said the team was hopeful it was a cramp rather than a more severe injury … Savannah has two Ivy Leaguers on its roster, Bowman (Princeton) and second baseman Jeff Reynolds (Harvard) … The Sand Gnats pitching coach is former major leaguer Frank Viola, who had a career record of 176-150 with the Twins, Mets, Red Sox, Reds and Blue Jays. He won 24 games in 1988 with the Twins, winning the AL Cy Young award, and 20 games in 1990 with the Mets. He won the first game and the seventh game of the 1987 World Series for the Twins against the Cardinals. You may remember his daughter, Brittany, in the 10-meter platform diving competition at the London Olympics. Frank got some camera time watching her perform.