Bill on Baseball:Late surge by Power knocks off Hoppers

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

Late surge by Power knocks off Hoppers

Sometimes things are out of a manager’s hands.

Friday night, with the Hoppers leading West Virginia by a run, Austin Brice came out for his fourth inning of work in relief of starter Matt Milroy. That was the second half of a “piggyback” situation in which the starter goes five innings and the second pitcher, another starter, throws four. It’s something mandated by the parent Miami Marlins and it’s nothing new. The Hoppers used the piggyback much of last season and early in this season.

It almost worked. In the top of the ninth, protecting a 3-2 lead, Brice disposed of the first two hitters, the second on a nice sliding catch by left fielder Cody Keefer. But with a 2-and-1 count on Dilson Herrera, Brice left a fastball a little too high in the zone and Herrera smashed it out of NewBridge Bank Park to tie the game 3-3.

West Virginia eventually broke through with three runs in the top of the 12th against Jheyson Manzueta. Manzueta compounded the damage with a throwing error to the plate that allowed one run and a wild pitch that allowed another.

“In another situation, we bring in a closer,” Hoppers manager Jorge Hernandez explained about the top of the ninth. “Austin pitched well but he fell behind in the count and (Herrera) got good wood on a pitch and hit it out. You tip your hat to him.”

The wind went out of the Hoppers’ offensive sails and they never mounted a threat in their final four times up.

Milroy pitched well in his stint, allowing five hits and one unearned run in five innings while notching eight strikeouts. Brice allowed two runs, one earned, and struck out five. In all, four Hoppers errors contributed to four unearned runs.

Matt Juengel drove in two of Greensboro’s runs with a solo homer and a sacrifice fly. Tony Caldwell also had a sacrifice fly. In the bottom of the eighth, after the Hoppers had scored to take the lead, Caldwell came up with the bases loaded and two outs. He lashed a drive into right field that looked as if it would fall in for extra bases, but the Power’s Walker Gourley made a fine running catch.

“If that falls in, we break it open,” Hernandez said.

The Power stayed in the race for the Northern Division first-half championship and a berth in the playoffs. With two games left, they trail Hickory by two games and Hagerstown by one.

For the Hoppers, the loss meant they will finish the first half with a losing record. They needed to sweep the series in order to finish 35-34.

“I’m not disappointed at all,” Hernandez said. “We were 10 games under (18-28) and we started playing much better baseball. The pitching was much better. We can build on that in the second half.”

The teams play the third game of the series Saturday at 7 p.m.