Twine’s four RBIs help Hoppers to 7-6 win
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball at www.gsohoppers.com
This season isn’t going to be pretty, numbers-wise, for Justin Twine.
But he has things he wants to accomplish in the 42 games remaining, and Friday night was a good step toward that. The young shortstop (age 19) had three hits, drove in four runs, scored once and stole a base to help the Hoppers top Kannapolis 7-6 and salvage the finale of a three-game series.
Twine flicked a double to left field to score two runs in the fourth inning, ripped a double in the gap to right center to drive in two more in the fifth and singled through the hole for his third hit in the eighth inning.
“I want to show this organization that I have improved from last season and from the first half of this season,” Twine said. “I want to become an important piece of their future.”
Friday was his 80th game this season, far more than he has ever played, and just getting through the grind has been a chore.
“The hardest part is the mental side,” he said. “You’ve got to keep your body right and I’m still finding my routine. No matter how badly things are going, you’ve got to come out and play the next day.”
Even after getting three hits Friday, Twine’s batting average rose to only .188. He’s in such a hole from that standpoint that it’s going to be low regardless of his finish. But he believes he has improved his approach at the plate. He’s taking an occasional walk now and his first double came off a slider. His other two hits came off fastballs.
“This season has been a time for me to adjust to off-speed pitches,” he said. “I’m going up there now looking for something I can drive. It has been hard to keep my spirits up because I hold myself to a high standard, but my teammates and my family have been a big help.”
Manager Kevin Randel believes this season will benefit Twine in the long run.
“It’s the best learning experience I know to get it handed to you every night,” Randel said. “He just has to keep his spirits up and keep going.”
Austen Smith, Zach Sullivan and Arturo Rodriguez drove in the other runs for the Hoppers.
On the pitching side, both teams had depleted bullpens from the 15-inning game that Kannapolis won Thursday night. Hoppers starter Jorgan Cavanerio didn’t have a pretty outing but gave them six innings and wound up as the winner. After surrendering two runs in each of the fourth and fifth innings, he gave up a leadoff single in the sixth but then retired the next three hitters.
“He got out of a jam when we needed him to,” said pitching coach Jeremy Powell.
Gunnar Kines, brought up from the Gulf Coast League, got the Hoppers through the seventh and eighth innings by retiring all six hitters. But in the ninth he started leaving the ball up and gave up a walk, a single and a double that scored a run to cut the lead to 7-5.
Kelvin Rivas came in with one man out and two men in scoring position. He retired dangerous Alexander Simon, who hit a home run earlier in the game, on a grounder to fist baseman K.J. Woods for the second out as a run scored to make it 7-6.
With a runner on third and no margin for error, Rivas struck out Ryan Leonards to end the game and record his first save.
“We wanted to save Rivas if we could for Saturday’s game,” Powell said. “But you’ve got to win the game you’re playing first.”
NOTES: The Hoppers should get some bullpen help with Nick Fuller, who has been in Jupiter, expected to return … Savannah, a team the Hoppers haven’t seen all season, comes in for four games starting Saturday with Enderson Franco, who only lasted one inning in his previous outing, scheduled to start for Greensboro … The Sand Gnats won the first half of the Southern Division, which qualified them for the playoffs … They’re 50-46 overall but only 11-15 in the second half … Friday night they pounded Hagerstown 16-5 on the road, collecting 18 hits, including eight doubles and two homers Eudor Garcia had three doubles, a homer, five RBIs and three runs scored.