Bill Hass on Baseball:Mistakes cost Hoppers in loss to Power

Mistakes cost Hoppers in loss to Power
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at

There wasn’t much room for error Sunday afternoon, so the mistakes the Hoppers made proved costly in a 4-2 loss to West Virginia.

The offense only mustered five hits against three Power pitchers, who were aided immensely by center fielder Elvis Escobar. The Hoppers couldn’t get anything over or past Escobar, who ran down three long drives, two hit by Austen Smith and another by Ryan Aper.

The pitching again flirted with disaster all day, issuing six more walks to push the total to 17 free passes given to Power hitters in three games. Greensboro pitchers continued to wiggle out of trouble with men on base, but one of the walks, by James Buckelew, finally came around to score in the ninth inning. That gave the Power an important insurance run, making a comeback more unlikely.

What hurt the Hoppers most was some bad base-running. In the fifth inning, after John Norwood doubled in a run, he was picked off second base by Power starter Alex McRae. Instead of having a runner in scoring postion with one out for Justine Twine, there was nobody on base with two outs and Twine flied out to end the inning.

In the seventh, Aaron Blanton drew a one-out walk, stole second and advanced to third on an error by Power shortstop Cole Tucker. Aper, who reached on the error, was picked off by reliever Jake Burnette, an easy out when he tried to step back to the bag rather than dive. Zach Sullivan grounded out to end the inning.

“They were both awful plays,” said manager Kevin Randel. “But the worst was the play at first because we had the tying run on third with less than two outs. That was the big one, the blow to the kidneys.”

Starting pitcher Tyler Kolek battled his way through the first three innings, extending his streak of scoreless innings to 13. But Chase Simpson led off the fourth with a home run and the Power added two more runs to jump in front 3-1. Kolek came out after that and wound up with his first loss of the season.

“He didn’t throw enough quality fastballs,” said pitching coach Jeremy Powell, “and that backed him into a corner on the counts. It’s a game of adjustments and you’ve got to make adjustments quicker. He competed well without his best stuff.”

Sam Alvis pitched three hitless innings, although he walked two, and Buckelew finished.

The Hoppers can win the series with a victory in Monday’s 7 o’clock game with Scott Squier on the mound.

“I felt like we should have won the game,” Randel said. “If we play (Monday) the way we did today, we won’t have a chance. Maybe we got it out of our system.”

NOTES: Aper was added to the roster and started in center field when Casey Soltis (elbow) was put on the disabled list … Norwood had two of the Hoppers’ five hits … Nick Neumann recorded his fourth save for the Power … The Hoppers’ record slipped to 11-12.