Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball:Mader finds groove as Hoppers win 5th straight

Mader finds groove as Hoppers win 5th straight
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at…..

The Michael Mader that the Hoppers have been expecting showed up in the second inning Monday night.

The left-hander had been battered in his first two starts, both on the road, lasting only 4 1/3 innings and giving up eight hits, eight walks and 12 runs. And it looked like a “here we go again” when he gave up three runs to Lakewood in the first inning.

But that was it. Mader found his groove and combined with reliever Luis Castillo to shut out the BlueClaws over the last eight innings. The Hoppers offense clicked and they went on to an 8-3 win, their fourth in a row at NewBridge Bank Park and fifth straight overall as they lifted their record to 7-5.

Home runs by Austen Smith and Rony Cabrera led the 13-hit attack. Smith drilled his fourth homer of the season to begin the second inning and Cabrera hit his first, a two-run shot, later in the second. The Hoppers scored four runs and took the lead for good.

“We’re getting better at-bats, quality at-bats, and stringing them together,” said manager Kevin Randel. “Early in the season when guys are scuffling and they see those (low) batting averages flashed on the video board, they listen better.”

Cabrera added a third RBI and scored twice. Brian Schales and Zach Sullivan each tripled and scored twice and Mason Davis added two hits and two RBIs.

But the story of the night was Mader. After another rough start, he found himself in a jam in the second inning. An error, a single and a wild pitch put Lakewood runners on second and third with one out. He might have cracked there, but instead he struck out Malquin Canelo and got Jiandido Tromp to ground out to strand the runners.

“I just made sure to take my time, take some deep breaths and make quality pitches,” Mader said.

He was locked in after that, retiring the last 10 hitters he faced, finishing with five strikeouts and no walks.

“He pitched ahead in the count and got better as he went,” said pitching coach Jeremy Powell. “He did a 180 after the first inning. I think the second inning helped him get over the hump and the four-spot we put up helped, too.

“He’s been a performer his whole life. He took his lumps early, which will make him better. He’s been working hard on the side between starts.”

Mader said he had been rushing his delivery and pitching inconsistently from the stretch and that’s what he worked on in the side sessions. He knew he was better than he had shown to begin the season.

“I’ve never had two starts like that in my life,” he said, “so I had to find out how to deal with some adversity.”

He was supported with text messages and phone calls from people in his home town of Marianna, FL, a small town near Tallahassee. He heard from members of his family, close friends and his coach at Chipola Junior College, telling him in various forms that slumps happen in baseball and he would come out of it.

“I have some goals for this season,” he said. “One is to work on my strikeouts-to-walks ratio. It’s not where I want it but it got better tonight because I didn’t have any walks. I also want to learn to get the ball down, which you have to do in this park, and I did that better tonight.”

Castillo took over to start the seventh and retired the first three hitters he faced. He went on to earn a three-inning save, giving up one hit with two strikeouts and no walks.

“His fastball was firm and hard,” Powell said. “Their team got flat and we took advantage of that.”

NOTES: Mader became the first Hoppers starter to post a win this season … Five Hoppers hitters had two hits each … John Norwood was the only batter who didn’t get a hit but he drew three walks … Schales and Sullivan each tripled and scored in the fifth inning … Lakewood manager Shawn Williams was ejected while arguing a call at home plate in the bottom of the fifth … Jose Adames will start Tuesday’s game against the BlueClaws.