Bill Hass on Baseball:Hoppers stay hot, win 5th straight

“It’s like chopping wood,” Kentrell Dewitt said, “and that’s what I did on that home run. I’ve been working on things like seeing the ball deeper (in the strike zone) and swinging at good pitches.”

Hoppers stay hot, win 5th straight

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

Big plays and little plays. Pitching, hitting and defense.

Any team that does things things consistently is going to be successful, and that’s what’s happening for the Hoppers right now. Monday night they began a week-long homestand with a 4-0 win over Lakewood, their season-high fifth straight victory.

“We’re hitting great and pitching great and it looks pretty good when it happens in the same game,” said pitching coach Jeremy Powell.

After losing three of four games at Augusta and scoring just 12 runs, the Hoppers went on an offensive spree in a four-game sweep of Rome. The offense cooled somewhat against Lakewood, but the pitching held up fine.

Starter Domingo German notched his fourth win by pitching shutout ball into the eighth inning. The BlueClaws loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth, but German struck out the next two hitters before being relieved by Miguel del Pozo.

“It was an outstanding effort,” Powell said of German. “He kept his body under control and repeated his delivery and was around the zone all night. He bore down and got a couple of big outs in the eighth.”

Del Pozo came in with no room for error and promptly went to a 3-and-1 count on Lakewood’s Andrew Pullin. He got Pullin to foul one off, then struck him out swinging to end the inning with three runners stranded. Del Pozo gave a couple of fist pumps as he left the mound for the dugout.

The left-hander returned for the ninth and worked around a single to retire the side and become the eighth Greensboro pitcher to earn a save this season.

“You want to see what someone will do with their back against the wall,” Powell said. “He’s been throwing well. Early in the season he lacked confidence and it snowballed on him.”

At the end of April, del Pozo had an ERA of 11.91 in six games. He has since worked that down to 6.49 in 13 games. In 15 innings during May he has allowed just four runs with 19 strikeouts.

The offense came into the game white-hot after accumulating 40 runs on 67 hits in Augusta. Felix Munoz had a game with five hits and five runs scored. Carlos Lopez had one game with six hits and another with six RBIs. Kentrell Dewitt had back-to-back games of four hits.

The Hoppers recorded 10 hits Monday. Lopez, who had seven straight games with at least two hits, was held to one but is still 20-for-33 in his last eight games. Munoz had two hits and is now 15-for-35 in his last eight. Munoz also excelled on defense at first base, making several nice stops that turned into unassisted putouts. He started a difficult double play, stabbing a grounder and firing to shortstop Javier Lopez covering second base, then hustling back to the bag to take the return throw for the second out.

Dewitt continued his hot hitting with a home run and a single. In his last three games he is 10-for-15.

“This is the best I’ve played since I’ve been in pro ball,” he said. “Taking a year off (in 2013) has really helped my concentration.”

Dewitt gave the Hoppers a 1-0 lead with a solo homer to right field in the second inning. Chad Wallach had a two-run double and Cody Keefer doubled in the final run.

J.T. Riddle did one of the crucial little things in the bottom of the fourth. With two outs, runner Austin Dean broke for second base and Lakewood shortstop J.P. Crawford started moving over to cover. Riddle slapped the ball in the hole that Crawford vacated as Dean continued to third. That perfect hit-and-run set up Wallach’s double.

The offensive surge started after the Hoppers altered their batting practice routine. If a batter hit the ball in the air, he had to leave the cage.

“Guys can get to where they try to hit home runs in batting practice,” said hitting coach Frank Moore “This was an effort to get them on top of the ball and hit more line drives.

“There’s no science to this. Baseball is a crazy sport. It’s all about doing the work and being productive. It made guys concentrate more.”

Dewitt said the change in routine definitely helped him.

“It’s like chopping wood,” he said, “and that’s what I did on that home run. I’ve been working on things like seeing the ball deeper (in the strike zone) and swinging at good pitches.”