Bill Hass on Baseball:Hoppers drop 3rd straight to end home stand

Hoppers drop 3rd straight to end home stand
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at

Tuesday’s game started in 91-degree weather and finished at 96 degrees.

Unfortunately for the Hoppers, they failed to heat up like the thermometer.

Augusta took a 3-1 win, giving it three straight victories in the four-game series. The Greenjackets, leading the Southern Division of the SAL, improved to 20-12 in the second half. The Hoppers dropped to 18-13 in the half and 56-45 overall. They finished 3-4 on the homestand, which began when they beat Greenville two out of three.

For the second straight game, the Hoppers’ only run came on a solo homer, this one by Zach Sullivan in the fifth inning. It was a long shot that cleared Natty’s Hill in left center field and was his third of the season.

“The home run got us on the board, but we need multiple at-bats strung together,” said manager Kevin Randel. “We’re the kind of team that needs big hit after big hit.”

And the Hoppers failed to come up with even one big hit, despite opportunities. In the third inning, after singles by Sullivan and Casey Soltis and a sacrifice by Gio Alfonzo, they stranded runners at second and third when Anfernee Seymour and Justin Twine struck out swinging.

In the sixth, against a tiring starter in Cory Taylor, Josh Naylor singled, Angel Reyes walked and Isael Soto singled to load the bases with one out. But Taylor regrouped to strike out Roy Morales and Sullivan to leave all three runners.

The Hoppers’ last opportunity came in the eighth. After reliever Ryan Halstead retired the first batter, the Jackets went with a pitching matchup, something unusual in a low Class A league. They brought in lefty Caleb Smith to face left-handed Naylor, who flied out for the second out. Right-handed hitter Reyes doubled, but he was left there when Smith retired the left-handed Soto on a fly ball.

As things turned out, Augusta’s two runs in the first inning were enough to win. Hoppers starter Ben Meyer issued a two-out walk, then surrendered a two-run homer to Matt Winn. It was the sixth homer of the series for the Jackets.

Augusta added an unearned run in the fifth inning.

After Meyer’s five innings, Parker Bugg and Marcus Crescentini each pitched two shutout innings.

“The walk was a small slip and home runs will happen here,” said pitching coach Brendan Sagara.

The Hoppers committed three errors, giving them seven in the last two games.

“We’re in a rut offensively and defensively,” Randel said. “You go through that from time to time. We just have to wait it out.”

After an off day Wednesday, the Hoppers play five games in four days in Kannapolis. They begin with a doubleheader Thursday. Cody Poteet will start one game but who will get the spot start in the other game hasn’t been determined.