Bill Hass on Baseball:Johnson’s 6 RBIs power Hoppers to rout

Johnson’s 6 RBIs power Hoppers to rout
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at

There was no talk in the Hoppers’ locker room Sunday afternoon about Saturday’s results.

Kannapolis pitching had shut down the Hoppers’ attack with no runs and just four hits during a 6-0 win.

“Everybody knew what happened,” said outfielder Coco Johnson. “We didn’t want to lose the series, so we focused harder.”

That approach worked perfectly as the Hoppers shellacked the Intimidators 14-2, pounding out 17 hits, including seven doubles. Five doubles came in the second inning, when the Hoppers scored six times on seven hits. Johnson had a two-run double then and later added a two-run single, a sacrifice fly and a bases-loaded walk to total six RBIs for the day.

“I haven’t done that since junior college,” he said. “Your confidence goes up when there are runners in scoring position. You want to be the guy that knocks in runs.”

The Hoppers gained a split in the four-game series and finished 5-2 on their final long home stand of the season. After a day off Monday, they play three games at Hagerstown, their likely opponent in the first round of the playoffs.

The Suns lead Hickory by five games with 13 remaining to play in the second half. Since Greensboro won the first half of the Northern Division to qualify for the postseason, it doesn’t matter where the Hoppers finish in the second half (at 35-22, they’re one game behind Hagerstown). Hoppers manager David Berg expects the Suns to clinch the other playoff spot and sees the serie as a big one.

“I told those guys (in the locker room) that’s probably who we’re going to play,” Berg said. “We want to go in there and play well and then go into the playoffs knowing we played well against them. I’d like us to compete like those are playoff games.”

The Hoppers scored all they needed in the second inning, then tacked on eight more runs in the late innings. When it was over, everyone had at least one hit and seven players had multiple hits. Besides Johnson, highlighs included Kentrell Dewitt with two doubles among his three hits plus three runs scored, Chris Hoo with two hits and three runs scored, and three RBIs by J.T. Riddle that included a pair of sacrifice flies.

All that came with two of the club’s best hitters and the two RBI leaders, Felix Munoz and Carlos Lopez, sitting things out.

“It’s nice when you can give those guys a day off and other guys produce,” Berg said. “Johnson and Dewitt hit well at the bottom of the order.”

Hitting coach Frank Moore offered no explanation for the way the Hoppers’ hitters turned things around.

“It’s not an exact science,” he said. “They had good at-bats, balls fell in and they did a good job of driving in runners from third with less than two outs.”

Hoo continued his stellar play since joining the club. In four games he has gone 6-for-10, drawn five walks, scored four runs and handled himself well defensively.

“I learned to stick to my approach my senior year in college,” he said, “and it’s working really well. I don’t try to do too much. I know I’m not a home run hitter, so I just try to find a gap.”

Hoo has impressed Berg in his short stint.

“He’s been awesome,” Berg said. “He blocks pitches well, he throws runners out, his at-bats are outstanding because he takes what (pitchers) give him. I wouldn’t hesitate to use him in a playoff game.”

Domingo German started but was limited to two innings and gave up a solo home run. Chris Sadberry followed with four innings and picked up his third win. He struggled, throwing 82 pitches and giving up five hits and two walks, but limited the damage to a solo homer.

“He didn’t have his best stuff,” said pitching coach Jeremy Powell, “but he made it work. That says a lot about his ability to pitch under pressure.”

Tyler Kane, Tyler Kinley and Tyler Bremer finished with a scoreless inning apiece.

NOTES: The game tied for the fourth most runs scored by the Hoppers in a game this year. They got 20 at Asheville on June 30, 16 against Lexington on July 1, 15 twice and 14 now three times … The attendance was 6,687, an unusually large crowd for a Sunday … The odd lineup had Rehiner Cordova playing first base for the first time and center fielder Yefri Perez at second, where he has played a couple of times. Cordova looked like a natural, making several nice stretches to pull in throws. Berg said he doesn’t hesitate to play a shortstop at first because of the aggressive way they’re used to playing … Jose Adames is the scheduled starter for the first game against Hagerstown Tuesday. Ryan Wertenberger will likely start the second game.