Davis’ dirty uniform keys win for Hoppers
from Bill Hass on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at www.gsohoppers.com…
As Mason Davis left the Hoppers’ dugout Friday night, he did something impulsive.
The second baseman grabbed the lineup card, carried it into the locker room, signed it at the top on the back and then asked his teammates to add their signatures.
“It’s for my dad,” he said. “He taught me to play every game as hard as I can. You never know when you’ll stop playing, so you play every game like it’s your last one.”
Davis did just that against Delmarva, using his hitting, his speed and his fielding to help the Hoppers to a 9-7 victory. It was their second straight win at NewBridge Bank Park after opening the season with a 2-5 record on the road.
“We’re a team but we’re not together yet,” Davis said. “I think playing in front of the home crowd (5,374 Friday) gave us a spark. We’re starting to play well.”
At the end of the game, Davis’ uniform had more red dirt on it than any other color.
“I love a dirty uniform,” said manager Kevin Randel. “He’s a throwback player, flying around everywhere and electrifying to watch. He busts it every time and is such a pro.”
Davis played a key role in a five-run seventh inning that propelled the Hoppers into a 9-5 lead. With Zach Sullivan on second and Aaron Blanton on first, Randel flashed the bunt sign to move the runners up. But Davis caught his manager, and the Shorebirds, by surprise with a bunt toward first base instead of down the line at third.
“The third baseman usually plays in on me,” Davis said, “but I figured the first baseman would be back a little and the second baseman wouldn’t be paying attention.”
He beat out the bunt for a base hit as Sullivan scored the tying run from second base and Blanton went to third. The Shorebirds tried to make a play and Davis fell over second baseman Ronarsy Ledesma covering first. He hit the ground hard and Randel went running over to him.
“It looked like he grabbed his shoulder when he was on the ground,” Randel said. “But he said he was fine. He’s a gamer.”
A deep sacrifice fly by Arturo Rodriguez scored Blanton with the go-ahead run. Davis stole second base and scored on an error to make it 7-5. Rodrigo Vigil’s single drove in two more runs for a 9-5 cushion.
In the fourth inning, Davis made an excellent defensive play when he went in the hole to his right to stab a ground ball, then made a jump-throw in the air to first base for the out, reminiscent of a move patented by Derek Jeter.
“All the infielders practice that play, going in the hole and making that throw,” Davis said. “Aaron Blanton is really good at it. We do it so it becomes instinctive in a game.”
The game was the home debut for starter Tyler Kolek, the second pick in the 2014 draft. The young flamethrower had success in the first inning when he retired the side in order, but gave up two runs in the second and two more in the third. Relying almost exclusively on a fastball that topped out at 98, Kolek struck out two, walked one, hit two batters, made a throwing error on a pickoff attempt and was touched for four hits.
“He was great in the first inning and then got scattered with his fastball,” said pitching coach Jeremy Powell. He said Kolek started getting behind in the count and had trouble pitching out of the stretch with runners on base. This is a developmental year for Kolek, with emphasis on gaining fastball command and getting ahead in the count, so the statistical results are secondary for Powell.
Among the relievers, Sam Alvis threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings and earned the win. After Jose Arias gave up a two-run homer and hit a batter to start the ninth, Colby Suggs entered in a save situation. He faced three straight batters who represented the tying run and got two strikeouts and a flyout to end the game.
“He came in and threw strikes,” Powell said. “He’s got the makeup for that role and he really gets after it.”
NOTES: K.J. Woods was placed on the disabled list and catcher Felix Castillo was activated. Woods hurt his wrist on a slide in the opening game at Delmarva. He sat out several games and it was determined a DL stint was needed … Ben Holmes will take the mound Saturday night as the Hoppers aim for their third straight win.