Bill on Baseball:Barber makes it a good night for shaving cream

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

Barber makes it a good night for shaving cream

It was easy to find Blake Barber in the Hoppers dressing room late Thursday night.

He was the one wiping shaving cream from his face, out of his hair and off his jersey — not that he minded. You hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the 12th inning to win the game and you get the time-honored hero’s coronation, a pie pan full of the stuff.

Barber’s shot gave Greensboro a 9-6 win over Delmarva in a game that had a number of bizarre elements. Matt Juengel had led off the bottom of the 12th with a single and went to third on a hit-and-run single by Jose Behar. The Shorebirds drew the infield and outfield in so they could try to cut off the run at the plate. All Barber needed to do was punch it through the infield to win the game; instead, he hit it out of the yard.

“I got a pitch I could elevate and drive,” he said. “I was sitting on the fastball because I knew he (Delmarva pitcher Casey Upperman) didn’t want to risk a slider in the dirt with a man on third. They had been pounding me inside all night and I got a pitch I could handle.

“No one expects it to go out when I hit it, but I have some surprising power. I hit four home runs in the Gulf Coast League last year and eight or nine in college before that.”

Barber joined the team a week ago after playing one game at Batavia, in which he had a home run among his three hits. He was 0-for-6 in two starts with the Hoppers before Thursday. Although an infielder by trade, he’s the team’s utility man and wound up playing left field for three innings after starting the game at second base. That was one of the strange twists in the game.

In the bottom of the ninth, with the Shorebirds leading 6-5, Barber led off with an infield hit. Cameron Flynn, on a bunt attempt, had the ball ricochet off his bat and strike him above the eye. Dazed, he was forced to leave the game. Yeison Hernandez, who had been coaching first base, finished the at-bat and hit into a fielder’s choice for the first out. Anthony Gomez struck out but Jesus Solorzano extended the inning with a single, sending Hernandez to third.

That brought up Viosergy Rosa, who leads the team with 16 home runs, including a couple of walk-offs. But he took the conservative approach this time, chopping a single through the middle to score Hernandez with the tying run.

“I had struck out a couple of times so I learned from those at-bats,” Rosa said. “I told (hitting coach Frank Moore) that I was going to choke up on the bat and see what I could do.”

Moore’s reaction?

“He made the right adjustment,” he said with a smile.

The Hoppers only have three outfielders on the roster at the moment, so with Flynn out of the game Barber moved to left and Hernandez replaced him at second.

“I hadn’t played the outfield in a game that meant something since I was about 13,” Barber said. “But I’ll do whatever it takes to help the team. I was hoping to make a play out there because I was seeing the ball well off the bat. And I wanted to make up for the error I made earlier (at second). But I didn’t get any chances.”

The Hoppers pounded out 16 hits, including three by Juengel. The bullpen had an excellent night in relief of Ramon Del Orbe with Blake Logan, Frankie Reed and Chipper Smith pitching two innings apiece and allowing just one run. And the Hoppers thought that one never should have scored.

In the top of the ninth, Reed gave up a leadoff single and then threw an apparent double-play ball, with Barber flipping it to Gomez who relayed it to first. But base umpire Mike Wiseman gave the “safe” sign at second. Reed, who thought he had no one on base and two outs, instead had one out and a runner on second. He lost concentration and walked the next two hitters to load the bases and gave up a sacrifice fly to push Delmarva ahead 6-5.

But the Hoppers got that run back and eventually set the stage for Barber’s game-winner. That made Smith the winning pitcher, pushing his record to 6-0.

The ending erased any lingering bad feelings from Wednesday’s doubleheader loss to Asheville.

“We bounced back and we battled,” said manager Jorge Hernandez. “It was a solid night by the bullpen. Those guys gave us a chance.”

The teams play again tonight at 7 o’clock with Austin Brice drawing the start for the Hoppers.