from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at www.gsohoppers.com….
Stone makes most of rare chance in the spotlight
There’s nothing like a pressure situation to get the adrenaline going.
When you pitch in the middle innings out of the bullpen, however, your job is usually unheralded. Get people out, keep the score where it is and turn the game over to the setup man or the closer.
Thursday night, Dane Stone got a chance slice of the spotlight. He entered the game in the eighth inning with the Hoppers leading West Virginia 3-2. He wasn’t perfect by any means, giving up a hit and two walks, but he put two zeroes on the scoreboard to earn the save, his second of the season.
“I was a closer in college so I’m used to the pressure,” Stone said. “You take it one pitch at a time, throw first-pitch strikes, try to get some ground balls.
“In long relief, you don’t think much about it because there are a lot of at-bats left in the game and anything can happen. When you’re in toward the end, it’s on your shoulders. And you definitely pitch better with adrenaline flowing.”
Early in the season Stone “snaked” three wins — that’s the term pitchers use for someone who doesn’t start or finish the game but gets credit for the victory. He’s had only one win since then.
The teams play again Friday night at 7 o’clock.
“Sometimes they just fall in your lap,” he said. “Maybe you come in during a tie game and the team rallies to go ahead while you’re in. They add up, and wins look good on the statistics.”
This time, Stone’s save meant the win went to Ramon Del Orbe, who became the first Hoppers pitcher to go seven full innings this year. He shut out the Power for five innings and gave up single runs in the sixth and seventh (he balked home the runner from third in that frame).
“His fastball wasn’t that great but it kept them honest,” said pitching coach Blake McGinley. “He threw his changeup and slider for strikes and that was a plus for him. He’s always more effective in the bottom of the zone.
“Stone always competes and throws strikes. He’s fearless and that helps him control a game.”
The Hoppers scored once in each of the first three innings and made those runs stand up. Jesus Solorzano drove in Michael Main with a sacrifice fly in the first, Mike Vaughan singled home Matt Juengel in the second and Solorzano hit his seventh homer of the year to lead off the third.
Greensboro could have put more runs on the board, wasting a leadoff triple by Anthony Gomez in the fifth and getting Solorzano to third with one out in the fifth.
“We should have scored more runs,” said manager Jorge Hernandez. “We were fortunate to get the win but we’ll take it. We were coming off a long road trip and got in at 8:30 (Thursday) morning. We pitched well and played some good defense.”
Hernandez mentioned two double plays that both started with a flip from second baseman Alfredo Lopez to shortstop Gomez, who relayed a strong throw to Viosergy Rosa at first. Main tracked down a couple of fly balls in deep center field and Cameron Flynn made a nice diving catch in left.
Those plays made up for one miscue when Main collided with right fielder Solorzano and the ball fell for a double. On another play, Main ducked out of the way at the last moment to let Flynn pull one in. The rule of thumb is that the center fielder has the right of way, but he has to claim it by being vocal early in the play.
The win pushed the Hoppers to 32-34 with three games remaining in the first half. It was a costly loss for the Power, which fell three games behind Hickory and two behind Hagerstown in the Northern Division.