Bill on Baseball:Hoppers end first half on high note

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

Hoppers end first half on high note

Viosergy Rosa wanted to finish the first half with a bang, and he didn’t mind running through a stop sign to do it.

Rosa scored the go-ahead run in the fifth inning and the Hoppers went on to beat the West Virginia Power 7-5 Sunday to end the first half of the SAL season. The win meant Greensboro finished with a 33-36 record, not bad considering where it was in the middle of May.

The Hoppers were 10 games under .500, limping along at 18-28, but went 15-8 the rest of the way. They were never in contention to win the first half of the Northern Division (Hickory did that), but they should start the second half with more confidence.

“It’s good to finish on a bang,” Rosa said. “The team played more cohesively and we’re looking forward to winning the second half. I feel 100 percent that we have the right things to do that.”

Rosa is one of two Hoppers who will play in the All-Star game in Lakewood Tuesday night. The other is reliever Frankie Reed, who picked up his seventh save of the season and shriveled his ERA to 0.57 by retiring the side in order in the ninth inning.

The game had its strange aspects. The Power, eliminated from contention Saturday night, did not play any of its four position players selected for the All-Star game. But its roster is deep and it fielded a good lineup. Hoppers starter Mason Hope never got in a groove and gave up a grand slam to Eric Wood and eight walks in 4 1/3 innings. But Chipper Smith entered the game with the bases loaded in the fifth and, after walking in a run to make it 5-1, shut the door the rest of the way until Reed closed it out. Smith picked up his fourth win without a loss.

“He’s been outstanding for us,” said pitching coach Blake McGinley. “It’s all about his fastball command and good changeup.”

The Hoppers regained the lead 5-4 with four runs of their own in the bottom of the third. They scored two runs on Power throwing errors and got a two-run single from Cameron Flynn. After West Virginia tied it in the fifth, the Hoppers scored twice in the bottom of the inning.

With one out, Rosa on second and Yordy Cabrera on first, Matt Juengel delivered a single to right field. Manager Jorge Hernandez at first waved Rosa around third, then threw his hands up for him to stop. But Rosa kept on chugging and Power right fielder Jonathan Schwind for some reason threw the ball to the infield instead of throwing it home. Rosa never saw the stop sign go up.

“It was one of those times when you needed to be aggressive,” Rosa said. “My goal was to try to score. I saw (Hernandez) wave so I kept going.”

Hernandez said something and laughed as Rosa went into the dugout.

“I can’t get too mad as long as he makes an aggressive mistake,” Hernandez said. “He wasn’t even on the third base bag when the ball was picked up and that’s usually how you make the decision. But he never hesitated or stopped.”

The Hoppers picked up an insurance run when Cabrera scored on yet another Power throwing error.

“We put pressure on them by running the bases hard,” Hernandez said. “And we took advantage of the errors they made.”

The game ended, fittingly, when Reed fielded a grounder and tossed to Rosa for the out — one all-star to another.

The Hoppers banged out 14 hits, including four by Michael Main and two each by Anthony Gomez, Cabrera, Juengel and Flynn. Rosa and Cabrera each scored twice.