Bill on Baseball:Bird’s big night sends Dogs past Hoppers

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

Bird’s big night sends Dogs past Hoppers

Bird was the word Friday night, but bizarre wasn’t far behind.

Charleston’s Greg Bird belted three home runs and a double and drove in seven runs to lead the RiverDogs to a 7-5 victory over the Hoppers in NewBridge Bank Park.

Ordinarily, that one-man show would have overshadowed everything else. But the game took its bizarre twist in the ninth inning when runner Viosergy Rosa was passed on the basepath by hitter Jesus Solorzano, costing Hoppers a run and an out and leading to a “what might have been” scenario.

First things first. Bird’s home runs came in his first three at-bats, all off starting pitcher Dejai Oliver. He hit them in sequential order — a solo homer in the first inning, a two-run belt in the third inning and a three-run shot in the sixth inning. Hoppers pitching coach Blake McGinley said they came off a changeup and two fastballs.

The Hoppers finally retired Bird, a left-handed hitter, in the sixth inning when lefty reliever Beau Wright struck him out. But in the eighth inning, facing Wright again, he laced a single to drive in his seventh run. Bird said he didn’t change anything and try for a fourth home run in his last two at-bats.

“I think I hit three home runs in a game in high school,” he said, “and I may have driven in six runs in a game earlier this year. The first three I was just looking for pitches I could handle and I didn’t do anything differently the last two times up.”

His teammates gave him the silent treatment in the dugout after his third homer — meaning they ignored him for a few seconds before pounding him in celebration.

“They can do whatever they want,” Bird said. “I’m happy and we won the game.”

But the Hoppers, down 7-3, had a chance to change the outcome in the bottom of the ninth. Rosa led off with a single. Solorzano followed with a long drive that sent Charleston center fielder Jake Cave to the fence. He leaped and, for a moment, it was hard to tell what happened. But he came down without the ball and the base umpire gave the home run signal.

The problem was that Rosa, who had already reached second base, thought the ball had been caught and started back toward first base. Solorzano, running with his head down, didn’t see Rosa and passed him, a violation of the rules.

“I was on second base and it looked like he caught it,” Rosa said. “Then I heard the first baseman (Reymond Nunez) shout ‘throw it in’ and I started back. I was fooled, and that’s on me.”

By rule, Solorzano was called out for passing the runner. He lost his home run and was credited with a single, since he had touched first base. Rosa’s run counted and Solorzano was credited with the RBI.

But it changed the scenario, especially when Cameron Flynn followed with a triple. Instead of the score being 7-5 with a man on third and no one out, it was 7-4 with a runner on third and one out. Blake Barber popped out for the second out. Flynn did score on an error to make it 7-5, but Mike Vaughan hit into a fielder’s choice to end the game.

“Rosa didn’t see that the ball wasn’t caught,” said manager Jorge Hernandez. “That was a big mistake. It would have been 7-5, a man on third, no outs and the tying run at the plate. Anything can happen then.”

One more odd aspect came with Cody Keefer at bat with two outs. He hit a long fly that went foul toward the Hoppers bullpen. Charleston left fielder Kelvin DeLeon injured himself running after it and had to leave the game. The RiverDogs moved second baseman Angelo Gumbs to left and inserted Francisco Rosario at second.

The old baseball saying “the ball will find you” came into play immediately. Keefer hit a grounder to Rosario and he booted it, allowing Flynn to score. But Rosario recovered and took the throw from shortstop Cito Culver, who made a beautiful diving stop of Vaughn’s grounder, to force out Keefer at second base.

The Hoppers continued their struggles at the plate with just seven hits. They got only 18 hits in the three games against Charleston and managed only 19 in four games against Kannapolis. That’s just 37 hits in seven games, during which their record is 2-5.

“Hopefully getting (Colin) Moran back will give our offense a spark,” Hernandez said.

Moran, the Marlins’ No. 1 draft pick, is expected back Saturday after missing Thursday and Friday’s games while attending the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award in Los Angeles. Moran was one of three finalists, but the honor as the nation’s top amateur player went to Kris Bryant of the University of San Diego.

Wednesday night Moran made his debut with the Hoppers and hit a home run in his first at-bat.