Schales the catalyst as Hoppers down Hickory
(from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshhoppers) at www.gsohoppers.com
While the second half of the season has been forgettable for the Hoppers, it has become memorable for third baseman Brian Schales.
He continued his hot hitting Thursday night, going 3-for-5 with a homer, three RBIs and three runs scored as the Hoppers beat Hickory 8-6. It was the most runs he’s scored in a game this year and it tied his high for RBIs.
“He’s learning how to hit a little bit,” said manager Kevin Randel. “He has turned it on in the second half.”
After scuffling through the first half with a .216 average, Schales is hitting .317 in the second half, bringing him to .262 on the season.
“I was chasing pitches in the first half and got away from my approach,” he said. “Now I’m more selective. And I’ve been doing a lot of work on the (batting) tee.”
Schales had an RBI on a blooper that fell in for a single in the second inning, added another on a solid line drive in the fourth and unloaded his fourth homer of the year — oddly, his first at NewBridge Bank Park — in the sixth.
Hitting coach Luis Quinones agreed with Schales about being more selective.
“His swing is more level and he’s swinging at his pitches now instead of the pitcher’s pitches,” Quinones said. “He changed his grip on the bat so it makes his wrist looser and it comes through like a whip.”
Schales was the catalyst but had help. Mason Davis had two hits and scored twice, Arturo Rodriguez had a two-run double and K.J. Woods drove in two runs with a single. Hickory chipped in with three errors, which led to four unearned runs.
The Hoppers built a 7-1 lead through four innings before the Crawdads started pecking away, scoring in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings to whittle the lead to two runs.
The first three Greensboro pitchers — Gabriel Castellanos, Kyle Keller and James Buckelew — gave up only six hits but issued nine walks. They threw 153 pitches, but only 81 for strikes. Castellanos, who wound up with his first win, walked five, was called for a balk and threw a wild pitch. Both he and Keller walked in runs with the bases loaded.
Kyle Fischer brought some order to the game on the pitching end, relieving Buckelew with two outs in the eighth and getting a strikeout, then getting his ninth save with a shutout ninth.
“We needed every bit of our offense,” said pitching coach Jeremy Powell. “It makes it hard when you can’t throw strikes. Castellanos settled down a little bit (retiring six straight in the third and fourth innings) and that helped.”
The Hoppers wiggled out of some jams, stranding 10 Crawdad runners. And left fielder Eric Fisher made the play of the game with a running catch near the wall down the left field foul line with the bases loaded in the sixth inning.
“He made a basket body catch with the bases juiced that saved the game for us,” Randel said.
Schales ended the game with a defensive play he makes look routine on a slow roller to third base — charge, scoop and throw.
“That’s a do or die play because if you wait on the ball he’s going to be safe,” he explained. “We work a lot on plays like that in practice.”
NOTES: Luke Tendler, who played at North Carolina A&T, hit a two-run homer for Hickory and now has 10 RBIs against the Hoppers this season … Greensboro won for only the fourth time in 14 games against the Crawdads … The teams play again Friday with Enderson Franco the starter for the Hoppers.