Strong effort by Mader keys Hoppers’ win
(from Bill Hass, with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at www.gsohoppers.com)
Michael Mader hopes he found the formula for consistent success Friday night.
The Hoppers’ left-hander hurled seven shutout innings against Lakewood, becoming the first starter to pitch that deep into a game this season. Things got a bit uneasy in the final two innings before Josh Hodges nailed down the save to preserve a 4-3 win.
In winning his third game of the year, Mader allowed only three hits while striking out three against just one walk.
“He showed what he can do with some confidence,” said pitching coach Jeremy Powell. “He had good fastball command in the zone and his changeup was very good, which slowed the hitters down. And he showed flashes of his breaking ball early. It was fun to watch him pitch.”
Mader was efficient with 80 pitches, settling into a good rhythm. One key for him was retiring the first batter in six of his seven innings.
“(Powell) has been preaching that to me,” Mader said. “No goofing off in the dugout between innings; just concentrate on going back out there. It makes things a lot easier when you get that first guy. I’m doing a lot better keeping my focus consistently.”
Mader said his changeup was working all night. It helped him get out of a second-inning jam when he had runners at first and third with one out. He got a shallow fly ball to right field for the second out, with the runner at third holder, and a come-backer to end the inning.
In the third, the first batter singled and Mader hit the second man up. He got a flyout to right field for the first out, then induced Rhys Hoskins, the BlueClaws’ most dangerous hitter, to rap into an around-the-horn double play.
“He hunts fastballs,” Mader said, “so I thought if I threw him some changeups he might get out in front of it and hit a ground ball, and that’s what happened.”
The Hoppers built a 4-0 lead through seven innings, although they didn’t exactly knock down the fences. They scored once on John Norwood’s RBI single and adding three runs on wild pitches by Lakewood starter Elniery Garcia.
Things got tense in the eighth when reliever Luis Castillo gave up back-to-back RBI singles with two outs. Hodges came in and uncorked a wild pitch that allowed another runner to score before he got the third out on a groundout.
The tension continued in the ninth when the first two Lakewood batters reached on an error and a single. Grenny Cumana bunted hard toward third base, but Hodges came off the mound and flipped a throw to Brian Schales at third base to get the first out. The next batter fouled out and Hodges struck out Cord Sandberg to end the game.
“I knew we wanted to get the lead runner,” Hodges said, “so I threw a high fastball and hoped (Cumana) might pop it up. He got it down and it was just instinct to barehand it and throw to third. I knew I had plenty of time.”
It was the fifth save of the season for Hodges, a converted starter.
“I’m still learning every day,” he said, “and I’m glad to get the opportunities to get some saves. I like the role and when they call my name I want to go in and get outs.”
The win came a day after a 10-2 drubbing by the BlueClaws.
“I’ll take this game very day,” said manager Kevin Randel, whose team survived three errors. “Last night was much more stressful. We needed one like this where the bounces went our way. Mader set a good tempo. When you get the ball and go, everyone stays in the game.”
The teams play the third game of the series tonight at 7 o’clock. Drew Steckenrider will start for the Hoppers.