Bill on Baseball:Barber, Moran push Hoppers to split

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

Barber, Moran push Hoppers to split

At this point of the season, it doesn’t matter if you’re a non-drafted free agent or a No. 1 draft pick.

The goal is the same — to finish the season as strongly as you can.

Blake Barber and Colin Moran both took steps toward that goal Sunday as the Hoppers split a doubleheader with Augusta. After dropping the first game 6-5, they bounced back to win the second 7-3.

There are 20 games remaining in the season and the Hoppers trail West Virginia by 10 games in the Northern Division. They understand the reality of the situation — unless they get absolutely white-hot, their chances of making the playoffs are remote.

So they can either keep playing hard and pile up as many wins as possible or pack it in. Which choice they make will say a lot about them as a team and as individuals.

“You want to see how they finish,” said manager Jorge Hernandez. “That can say a lot for next season, and that’s my goal.”

Barber did his part Sunday, finishing 4-for-6 with 5 RBIs. He drove in four runs in the second game, two on a single in the fourth inning and two on a home run in the fifth.

“You want to end the season like you started,” he said. “Whether’s it’s game one or game 100 or game 140, you play hard no matter what. You want to be known as winners, not a group that throws in the towel.”

After the doubleheader, he lay on the trainer’s table, taking treatment for a tight hamstring.

“I want to stay on top of it,” he said. “Can’t go on the DL (disabled list). I just fight through it when I need to.”

His single broke a 3-3 tie in the second game and gave the Hoppers the lead for good. His home run, which landed well up the bank in left field, put the game out of reach.

“On the single,” he said, “I shortened my swing with two strikes, which is something I’ve been working on with Frankie (hitting coach Frank Moore). The infield was in so I just had to elevate something and I drove it into right field.

“On the homer, I have been hitting left-handers good this year. It was a 2-0 count (from lefty Joe Karrasch) and I put a good swing on it. It was probably one of my longest this year.”

As a non-drafted free agent who was signed for $1,000, Barber understand he’s not a high profile player. But he’s doing everything he can to be noticed. He’s now hitting .284 with 8 homers and 27 RBIs in 38 games.

By contrast, Moran got a big signing bonus for being a No. 1 pick by the Marlins in June. He knows he will be given every opportunity to succeed. He drove in four runs Sunday, two in each game. In 23 games, he’s hitting .253 and has driven in 15 runs.

“The biggest thing to get used to has been playing every day,” he said of the difference between playing for the Hoppers and playing at Chapel Hill. “I’m starting to get acclimated and more comfortable. It’s not the same as in college, but I’m getting the routine down.

“I just want to keep getting better and play good baseball in the games that are left.”

The Hoppers banged out 19 hits in 13 innings. Jesus Solorzano had three hits, including his 13th homer, and Cameron Flynn had three more.

Dejai Oliver picked up the win in the second game to improve to 4-3, battling his way through five innings and allowing three runs. Twice the Hoppers staked him to leads and twice he gave them up. But after they went up 5-3, he had a three-up, three-down fifth inning. Jheyson Manzueta and Ronald Barnes pitched an inning apiece to nail down the win.

In the first game, Augusta scored four times in the top of the first off Chipper Smith and the Hoppers never could climb out of that hole. They got within 4-3, but Matt Milroy gave up a two-run homer in the sixth to make it 6-3. Moran’s singled cut the lead to a run, but Matt Juengel took a highly-dispute called third strike to end the game.

“You just can’t go down four runs in a seven-inning game,” Hernandez said. “We battled back and made it a game, but that home run Milroy gave up was a killer.”