Bill on Baseball:Defense, pitching help Hoppers bounce back from tough loss

from Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at
Defense, pitching help Hoppers bounce back from tough loss

There was plenty for the Hoppers to feel good about after Saturday’s 3-2 win over Delmarva — clutch hitting, excellent pitching and outstanding defense.

But manager Jorge Hernandez was most pleased about how his team bounced back from a tough 4-3 loss Friday.

“I said after (Friday) that I was pleased with the way we played,” Hernandez said, “and that carried over to tonight. Energy and enthusiasm can take you a long way in this game. That’s been the message since we got here.”

The Hoppers built a 3-0 lead through the first six innings. In the first, Michael Main singled and Anthony Gomez beat out a bunt. On the play, Delmarva first baseman Nik Balog threw the ball into center field and Main came around to score on the error.

In the fifth, Yordy Cabrera walked and Viosergy Rosa doubled to put runners on second and third with one out. Jesus Solorzano’s single drove in Cabrera for a 2-0 lead.

A solo home run by catcher Mike Vaughn, his first of the year, pushed the advantage to 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth. Vaughan had tripled earlier in the game but was stranded at third.

“I was seeing the ball pretty good,” Vaughn said. “I struck out on a changeup my first at-bat and I told myself to let the ball travel. I hit an outside fastball for the homer.”

On the pitching side, Mason Hope delivered five shutout innings to rebound from a poor start his last outing. He allowed just three hits and a walk and picked up his third win. Pitching coach Blake McGinley liked the way Hope repeated his delivery.

“He kept his fastball down and mixed his pitches well, keeping them off-balance,” McGinley said. “He got better as the game went on.”

Reliever Chipper Smith went three up and three down in the sixth and seventh innings. In the eighth he gave up a walk and then a two-run homer by Lucas Herbst that shaved the lead to one run. Jheyson Manzueta relieved him and went on to record his first save.

The defense sparkled on numerous plays. Cabrera made a strong throw from behind third base to retire one hitter and a nice recovery on a bad hop to get another. At shortstop, Gomez made a nice pickup on a short hop and a strong throw to retire a hitter. And the game ended when second baseman Alfredo Lopez glided to his right to scoop up Balog’s ground ball and flipped it to Gomez for the forceout at second. Gomez relayed it to Matt Juengel at first to complete the double play.

But those weren’t even the best plays. In the top of the eighth, center fielder Main raced in and made a diving catch to retire Torsten Boss for the first out. After Manzueta relieved Smith, the first batter he faced was Gregory Lorenzo, who drove the ball deep to center. Main broke back, turned once, then again, and reached up to grab the ball on the warning track.

“He made a great play there,” Hernandez said. “And the one he made coming in was a tough play with the spin on the ball.”

And a play in the top of the first inning turned out to be crucial. Delmarva had Herbst on second with two outs when Balog laced a single to right field. Although Solorzano had thrown a runner out Friday on an identical play, the Shorebirds challenged him again and Herbst was waved home. The low throw came in on one hop to Vaughn, who made the tag for the out.

“Both throws were perfect,” Vaughn said. “They came in on an easy hop and it was just catch and tag. That makes my job a lot easier.”

Solorzano, with Rosa translating, said he thought Friday’s throw was the better one. He said he stayed calm and concentrated on hitting the cutoff man in the chest. That kept the ball down so when it went through to the catcher, it was right on target.

“Throwing out a man at home plate is big,” Solorzano said. “It’s better than getting a base hit. When you throw a man out, you’re helping the team no matter what you’ve done at bat.”