Bill Hass on Baseball:Hoppers fall to Greenville in 13 innings

Hoppers fall to Greenville in 13 innings
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at

When things are going bad ….

Back in NewBridge Bank Park after losing six straight road games, the Hoppers played 13 innings Monday night and wound up on the short end of a 5-4 score against Greenville.

Things looked good in the bottom of the first when K.J. Woods cracked his 18th homer of the season, a two-run blast that propelled the Hoppers to an early lead.

But the Drive rallied in the third inning. Greensboro starter Tyle Kolek hit the leadoff batter and surrendered two singles to load the bases. The Drive’s Danny Mars singled to short center to score one run and it appeared the bases would remain loaded. But the ball rolled under the glove of normally sure-handed center fielder Zach Sullivan for an error and two more runs scored with Mars winding up on third base. A wild pitch by Kolek allowed Mars to score and push Greenville’s lead to 4-2.

The Hoppers tied it in the fourth on a double by Austen Smith, a single by John Norwood, a Greenville error and Zach Sullivan’s RBI single.

And that’s where the score stayed. Hoppers pitching held the Drive scoreless for nine straight innings. Kolek put zeroes up in the fourth and fifth and the bullpen was superb with Kyle Fischer, James Buckelew and Nick Fuller throwing two shutout innings each. Jose Velez added another in the top of the 12th.

Velez got unlucky in the 13th, though. With one out, T.J. Watkins lifted a high fly down the right field line. Right fielder Ryan Aper, second baseman Mason Davis and first baseman Austen Smith all converged on the ball but nobody took charge. It fell in fair territory and Watkins wound up with a triple.

Velez fanned Carlos Mesa for the second out. Then Hector Lorenzana hit another high fly to right that Aper made a diving attempt for but couldn’t haul in as Watkins scored the go-ahead run. The Hoppers went down in order in the bottom of the 13th, with Woods taking a called third strike to end the game.

The best chance for the Hoppers to score came in the 10th inning when Davis led off with a single and moved to second on Rony Cabrera’s sacrifice. Brian Schales drew a walk, but Woods hit into a double play to end the threat.

The teams play the second game of the series Tuesday at 7 p.m. with Michael Mader starting for the Hoppers.