Bill on Baseball:Hoppers fall short trying to dig out of hole

from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at….

Hoppers fall short trying to dig out of hole

The Hoppers had what they were looking for Saturday night.

They were trailing West Virginia 6-4 but had the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the ninth with two of their best contact hitters coming up. But Cameron Flynn took a called third strike on a breaking ball, striking out for just the 29th time in 48 games this season. Anthony Gomez then swung and missed at three pitches, all outside the strike zone (which the Hoppers felt was widened by the home plate umpire at the end of the game), to end things. He fanned for just the 26th time in 65 games.

“If I wanted someone up in that situation, it would be those guys, especially Flynn,” said manager Jorge Hernandez. “We had our chances. We were down 5-0 and battled back and gave ourselves a chance. We just couldn’t get the clutch hit when we needed it.”

The return of Chad James, a No. 1 draft pick by Miami in 2009, was a short one. James, who pitched here in 2010, had been in extended spring training and was placed on the roster Saturday morning. But the left-hander lasted just four batters and 16 pitches before feeling tightness in his shoulder. He was removed as a preventive measure.

The last three batters James faced all singled, producing one run. Brian Ellington entered the game and, after warming up as long as he needed, got the second out but then gave up a double Max Moroff that scored two more runs.

The Power scored two more in the top of the second to make it 5-0. The Hoppers matched those on Mike Vaughn’s double that drove in two runs. Another run by West Virginia in the third was countered by a solo homer by Viosergy Rosa (No. 14 on the year) to make it 6-3. The Hoppers added a run on a scoring error in the sixth to shave it to 6-4, but that was it.

On the plus side for the Hoppers, Blake Logan threw three shutout innings of relief and Miguel Fermin added two more. On the minus side, they committed four more errors, leading to three unearned runs. They also made four errors in Friday’s loss.

“Those throwing errors (by Ellington in the second and Rosa in the third) were costly,” Hernandez said. “Those runs were the difference in the game. We’re making mistakes like we did early in the season.”

West Virginia was eliminated from the Northern Division race when Hickory beat Delmarva to clinch first place. The Hoppers dropped to 32-36.

The teams wrap up the first half of the season with Sunday’s 4 p.m. game. Mason Hope will start for the Hoppers.