Hoppers’ streak stops at nine
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at www.gsohoppers.com
Kevin Randel had a simple message for his team after the Hoppers’ nine-game winning streak was stopped Saturday night.
“I didn’t tell them ‘let’s start a new streak,’” Randel said. “It was ‘just don’t let this carry over. We still have a series to win.’”
The Hoppers have won two of the three games from Kannapolis and the series will conclude with Sunday’s game at 4 p.m.
The evening started well when Friday’s suspended game was resumed. The Hoppers scored five add-on runs to go with the two they got Friday on Kyle Barrett’s home run just before the storm hit in the bottom of the third inning. That game was played out to the full nine innings Saturday with the Hoppers prevailing 7-4.
In winning their ninth straight, the Hoppers tied the second-longest streak in their history. The 2014 team set the record with 10 in a row. Three other teams won nine straight. It was also this team’s 51st victory, tying the victory total for the 2015 club for the whole season.
The second game, which lasted seven innings, was a different story. Behind strong pitching that limited the Hoppers to one hit, Kannapolis won it 1-0. The outcome left the Hoppers with a 13-4 record in the second half, three games ahead of second-place Kannapolis in the SAL North.
There were some opportunities for Greensboro. In the bottom of the first, Aaron Blanton drew a one-out walk but was picked off first. Angel Reyes followed with a single, which turned out to be the Hoppers’ only hit, but John Silviano struck out to end the inning.
Luis Martinez, the Intimidators’ 6-foot-6 right-hander, kept the Hoppers at bay, spotting his fastball and throwing his secondary pitches for strikes. In the fifth inning, Roy Morales was safe at first on a wild-pitch third strike. He moved to second on another wild pitch and went to third on a groundout but was stranded when Zach Sullivan popped out.
In the sixth, against 6-9, 290-pound reliever Taylore Cherry, Barrett was hit by a pitch and moved around to third with one out. Blanton, the team’s hottest hitter, struck out and Reyes grounded out to end the threat. Cherry, who pitched two years at UNC, retired the Hoppers in order in the seventh for his sixth save.
“We couldn’t get the big hit, which we’ve been doing lately,” Randel said. “(Cody) Poteet gave us a chance to win, but it didn’t happen. It wasn’t a good day for us on offense.”
Poteet gave the Hopper six innings, allowing four hits while striking out six. His one mistake came in the fifth inning. Cody Daily singled and, with one out, moved to second when Poteet was called for a balk by plate umpire Tom West. Bradley Strong followed with a single up the middle to score the game’s only run.
“They (the umpires) said I didn’t come set and they decided to call a balk,” Poteet said. “I felt good about how I competed. Mistakes happen, and this wasn’t a game to feel bad about. It never feels good to lose, but this brings us back to earth a little bit. We can start another streak tomorrow.”
In the first game, the Hoppers pounded out 12 hits. After the resumption, the Hoppers added two-run homers by Isael Soto and John Silviano and an RBI double by Anfernee Seymour. Silviano’s blast carried over the top of the scoreboard, one of the few times that’s ever happened in NewBridge Bank Park.
“It was kind of an emergency swing,” Silviano said. “The count was 0-and-2 and I was sitting on a changeup. I got a fastball and kept my hands inside.”
Ben Meyer picked up where Friday starter Justin Jacome left off. Meyer hurled four shutout innings and didn’t allow a hit while striking out five. His only blemishes were a walk and a hit batter as he earned his third win.
“Ben was throwing his fastball great with good command inside, which set up his other pitches,” said Silviano, his catcher.
Meyer has been coming out of the bullpen all season but he was a starter in college at Minnesota.
“I approached it like a bullpen outing,” Meyer said. “I wanted to give us three or four good innings. I hadn’t pitched in four days, so my arm felt good. I felt confident and I commanded my fastball well inside. That kept them off-balance.”
The game tightened up in the eighth inning when Kannapolis scored four runs off Kyle Keller to cut the deficit to three. That meant C.J. Robinson was called on to pitch the ninth and he was able to record his 17th save thanks to the defense.
After giving up a single to Max Dutto, Robinson induced Grant Massey to hit got a ground ball to the right side. Second baseman Justin Twine moved to his left to grab the ball and got off a quick throw to shortstop Seymour for the first out. Seymour’s throw to Reyes at first nipped Massey to complete a double play.
Landon Lassiter then singled to left and tried to stretch it into a double. But Barrett got to the ball quickly and uncorked a perfect throw to Twine, who dropped the tag on Lassiter to end the game.