Bill Hass on Baseball:Augusta wins 4-3 to tie series with Hoppers

Augusta wins 4-3 to tie series with Hoppers
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at

You would expect a series between two division leaders to be close, and so far it’s been that way between the Hoppers and Augusta.

The Greenjackets took a 4-3 decision Sunday at NewBridge Bank Park to square the series at 1-1. Greensboro won Saturday’s opener 6-5. The third game will be played Monday at 7 p.m. and the finale Tuesday at 12:30. That’s the last time the teams will face each other this season, unless they meet in the SAL’s championship series.

The Hoppers are 18-11 in the second half (56-43 overall), one-half game ahead of Hagerstown in the Northern Division. Augusta is 18-12 (54-46 overall) and has a 3 1/2-game lead in the Southern Division.

On the scoreboard, the difference was a disputed home run hit by Augusta’s Seth Harrison in the sixth inning. That moved the Jackets’ lead from 3-2 to 4-2.

In reality, the Hoppers had a lot to do with the outcome. The offense mustered nine hits — three by Isael Soto — but managed to get the leadoff hitter on base just twice. They were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

“The offense was terrible — at least eight of them were,” said manager Kevin Randel.

Soto was the exception. He finished with a homer, triple and double and drove in all three runs. Two of them came on his two-run homer in the fourth inning and the other on his triple in the eighth. He was stranded on second after his two-out double in the sixth.

There was a chance to do more damage in the eighth. Josh Naylor doubled and scored on Soto’s two-out triple. Roy Morales drew a walk and Augusta made a pitching change from left-hander Calbeb Smith to right-hander Ryan Koziol to face the right-handed Justin Twine. Kosiol got a strikeout to end the inning.

That turned out to be the Hoppers’ last gasp because Koziol retired the side in order in the ninth inning to earn the save.

From the pitching side, starter Steven Farnworth wasn’t at his best, giving up seven hits and three runs in five innings. Joel Effertz pitched two innings, giving up the disputed homer, and Jeff Kinley shut out the Jackets in the eighth and ninth innings.

“Farnworth had trouble getting the ball down in the zone and couldn’t get it where he wanted it,” said pitching coach Brendan Sagara. “But if three runs in five innings is his worst outing, I’ll take that.”

The hitter who tormented Farnworth was Dillon Dobson, a native of Winston-Salem who played at Appalachian State. Dobson hit an RBI double in the first, a solo homer in the third and another RBI double in the fifth.

“(Farnworth) made some mistakes and (Dobson hit them),” Sagara said.

Now, about the disputed home run. Harrison hit a high fly toward the Grand Stand in left field that appeared to go well foul — to everyone except home plate umpire David Martinez, who circled his right hand to indicate a home run.

Several Hoppers infielders jumped up and down in disbelief. Randel, who ran out for a brief argument with Martinez, said he didn’t have the best angle from the dugout, “but it just didn’t look fair.”

There was no doubt in the mind of third baseman Aaron Blanton.

“I saw it curve toward the foul side,” Blanton said. “It was halfway over the (Grand Stand) roof, nowhere near the foul pole. That changed the mood of the game.”

Catcher Roy Morales agreed.

“It was very much outside the foul pole,” he said. “For me, that’s a bad call. If the ball was called foul, the game would still be tied right now.”

Instead, Harrison wound up with his fourth home run and the Jackets wound up with the win.