Asheville jumps on Hoppers early for 5-2 win
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at www.gsohoppers.com
When two weary teams meet, the one that strikes first has a big advantage.
At least, that’s what happened Wednesday at NewBridge Bank Park. With Asheville and Greensboro playing 13 hours after a 14-inning game the night before, the Tourists scored three times in the first inning and went on to beat the Hoppers 5-2.
“Those were two tired clubs out there,” said Hoppers manager Kevin Randel. “They had enough energy in the first inning and we sort of flatlined from there.”
The Hoppers had won the first two meetings before Asheville took the getaway game. The result still meant the Hoppers won the series, giving them nine straight series without losing one. They won eight and split the other.
The Tourists left the field with faces showing disbelief Tuesday night after the Hoppers rallied in the 14th to win 6-5. They were the aggressors right away against Greensboro right-hander Jordan Holloway.
Carlos Herrera got it started with a leadoff double and Brendan Rodgers followed with a hard-hit single off the glove of third baseman Aaron Blanton. Brian Mundell then ripped a three-run homer, giving the Tourists a lead they never relinquished.
Asheville tacked on two more runs in the fourth inning, both scoring on Herrera’s single, for a 5-0 lead. On a hot, humid day, that Randel called “a sticky mess,” hole proved too deep for the Hoppers.
The Tourists’ Peter Lambert, a 19-year-old right-hander, kept the Hoppers at bay through five innings. He walked one and hit a batter, but only Anfernee Seymour touched him for a hit, a single in the third inning.
“He was living off the edges (of the plate),” Randel said, “and we were swinging at his pitches. Our at-bats weren’t very good.”
Holloway lasted four innings. Justin Jacome and Kyle Keller combined for the final five and didn’t allow any runs. Meanwhile, the Hoppers couldn’t reach Asheville reliever Drasen Johnson, who pitched three scoreless innings.
Finally, in the top of the ninth against Kelvin Franco, the Hoppers showed some offensive life Angel Reyes tripled and Justin Twine doubled him in. Twine scored when Franco uncorked two of the wildest pitches ever seen, both at least two feet over the catcher’s head.
The one good thing Franco did was retire Arturo Rodriguez on a fly ball. Asheville turned to Salvador Justo, who entered with no one on base and one out, and he disposed of Kyle Barrett and Blanton to end the game.
Josh Naylor, in the second game back from his suspension, went 0-for-4 but hit two long flies his last two times at bat.
“He stayed on the ball longer on those two,” Randel said. “Yesterday he was pulling off everything. All he did in Jupiter was work out and take batting practice. He didn’t play in any live games. It’s going to take some time to get his timing back.”
The Hoppers have been short-handed at catcher for several days. Korey Dunbar went on the DL leaving Rodriguez as the only healthy body. Catching his fifth straight game, Rodriguez threw out two runners trying to steal.
“He caught 14 innings Tuesday and nine innings today,” said pitching coach Brendan Sagara. “That’s 23 innings in 12 hours, and I don’t know many catchers in (Class) A ball who could have done that. That shows how tough he is. Arturo is a real pro.”
Rodriguez battled his way through the game, despite having a sore foot that was hit by a foul ball Tuesday, and having an infection in his leg drained after Tuesday’s game. He should get a break in Rome when the Hoppers activate Roy Morales, who has been out with a concussion.
The game was the final one in the first half for the Hoppers, now 35-31. They wrap up the first half with four games at Rome, followed by a three-day break for the South Atlantic League All-Star game. The second half begins at home on June 23, when Hickory opens a four-game series.
NOTESK: Reyes and Twine had two hits each while the rest of the lineup managed just one … Asheville’s Mundell has 34 doubles through 66 games and, if he isn’t promoted, could threaten the SAL record … That’s held by one of my all-time favorite Greensboro players, Scott Seabol, who had 55 doubles in 1999 with the Bats.