Bill on Baseball:Extra inning heroics again for Barber, Hoppers

Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) from

Extra inning heroics again for Barber, Hoppers

The Hoppers were back to their old formula Sunday, and that worked out just fine.

One game after a rare blowout win (10-2 Saturday), Greensboro played another close, down-to-the-wire, grind-it-out game, coming away with a 7-6 win over Delmarva in 10 innings. The victory gave the Hoppers a sweep of the series, the first time they’ve accomplished that in four games all season (they had a three-game sweep of West Virginia).

Blake Barber provided the late-inning heroics for the second time in the series. On Thursday, his three-run homer in the bottom of the 12th was the margin in a 9-6 win. This time his single up the middle in the 10th scored Anthony Gomez from third with the winning run. Barber’s hit came in his second at-bat against hard-throwing Shorebirds reliever Matt Hobgood.

“I missed my pitch against him the time before,” Barber said, “and I flied out to center field. I knew he would try to challenge me and I was thinking hit the ball somewhere from the middle to the right side. He gave me a good pitch down, but I was able to stay through it.”

It wasn’t Barber’s only contribution. In the second inning, he smacked a two-run homer off Juan Guzman to get the Hoppers on the scoreboard, an extremely high fly to left that stayed fair.

“The guys in the dugout said (Guzman) had a good breaking ball,” Barber said, “but I had a 2-0 count and was looking fastball. I got a good part of the bat on it and elevated it. Running to first I said ‘stay fair, stay fair’ because I could see the wind was pushing it to the left.”

Barber has started at second base, left field and DH in his short stint with the Hoppers.

“I know I’m a utility guy and all I ask for is an opportunity,” he said. “That’s what we relish. You’ve got to grab something when it’s there for the taking.”

Manager Jorge Hernandez said Barber doesn’t have to worry about opportunities.

“We’ll find a way to keep him in the lineup,” Hernandez said. “We need to give some guys some days off and he should be fresh.”

Gomez started the winning rally with a single to lead off the 10th inning. After Jesus Solorzano struck out (for the fourth time), Viosergy Rosa was given an intentional walk. Gomez moved to third on Matt Juengel’s fielder’s choice. Barber followed with his two-out game-winner.

“I was looking to somehow start a rally,” Gomez said. “I knew the meat of the order was coming up after me.”

Gomez was shut out of the RBI column after knocking in runs for five straight games (11 total).

“I’ll trade that for scoring a winning run any day,” he said.

The Hoppers banged out 12 more hits, giving them a total of 56 in the four games. Rosa had two singles (he finished the series 9-for-16) and scored twice. Jose Behar had a crucial two-run single in the sixth inning. Barber had three hits and two runs and Juengel hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning and scored twice.

Juengel had a rough time at third base in the top of the fourth. One ground ball went under his glove for an error and the next batter hit one that hopped over his glove for a single. The Shorebirds scored three times in the inning. But Juengel’s sixth homer of the year pushed the Hoppers back ahead.

“Both of them were balls I should have had,” Juengel said. “The second one took a weird hop but I still should have had it. I was pretty mad and not really thinking about hitting. I just saw a pitch and got into it.”

The game swung back and forth and the lead changed hands several times. The Hoppers led 6-5 in the eighth when Blake Logan, who otherwise pitched well in relief of Mason Hope, hung a slider that Roderick Bernadina hit for a solo homer to tie the game. Frankie Reed picked up the win, his fourth without a loss, with two shutout innings.

Pitching coach Blake McGinley said Reed, whose ERA is now 0.72, is confident, throwing strikes, challenging hitters and using his slider well.

“He prepares every day,” McGinley said. “He know when he’s available that he’s going to be in the game when we need him. He’s durable because he goes about things the right way.”

The Hoppers, now 6-5 in the second half, head to Asheville for three games, looking to maintain their momentum. The Tourists beat the Hoppers in a doubleheader Wednesday, putting a 15-4 licking on them in the second game. But Gomez said the Hoppers can’t focus on revenge.

“You try not to make it too personal,” he said. “We just need to play our game. Right now our attitude is more upbeat. We see the standings on the scoreboard before every game and it’s fun creeping up on people.”