Bill Hass on Baseball:Late lightning wins for Hoppers

Late lightning wins for Hoppers
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball at

There was no thunder Thursday night at First National Bank Field, so the Hoppers provided their own lightning.

With rain falling in the bottom of the eighth inning, Boo Vazquez unleashed a two-run homer and Mason Davis followed with a solo shot to rally the Hoppers to a 4–3 win over Lexington. The win prevented the Legends from sweeping the three-game series.

“We finally got aggressive on some fastballs and hit them out,” said manager Todd Pratt.

With the Hoppers down 3–1, Eric Gutierrez began the eighth by drawing a walk from Lexington reliever Julio Pinto. Vazquez then ripped a line drive to right field that stayed high enough to clear the right field fence for his first homer of the season.

“It was a fastball on the inner half of the plate, a little elevated,” Vazquez said. “I knew it was good for extra bases and it would get out if it stayed high enough.”

Vazquez admitted he had been waiting for his first homer but wasn’t dwelling on it.

“It’s a long season and I try not to force it,” he said. “If I’m hitting line drives, that’s usually a good sign.”

With the game now tied 3–3, Davis stepped in two batters later. Whereas Vazquez is listed at 6–4, 225 pounds, Davis is 5–9 and 175 pounds. But he unwound on another Pinto fastball and bashed it well over the fence in right center field.

“I tried to stay within myself,” Davis said, “and I just happened to get into one. Boo did a great job to tie the game up and that took the pressure off.”

While Davis knows he’s not a home run hitter, he does have a little pop. He hit six in 86 games with the Hoppers in 2016.

Those two blows helped ease the frustration of a game in which the Hoppers had plenty of chances to score but were 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Twice they wasted leadoff doubles and two other times they couldn’t score a runner from third with less than two out.

“Our situational hitting was horrible and we didn’t move runners up,” Pratt said. “That’s how you win games, and we’ve got to be more consistent there.”

Pitching kept the Hoppers close. Starter Jordan Holloway gave up three runs in six innings, his longest stint of the season. Marcus Crescentini pitched two shutout innings and picked up the win, while Kyle Keller closed it out with his fourth save.

“Holloway threw well,” said pitching coach Mark DiFelice. “He made a couple of mistakes early and paid for them. His preparation has gotten better and so has his ability to slow the game down.

“The back end of the bullpen has been doing really well. That’s the nucleus of our staff.”

Rome comes in to start a four-game series Friday with L.J. Brewster starting the opener at 7 p.m.

NOTES: Greg Bird had an RBI triple in the third inning, the Hoppers’ only run until the eighth … Pinto was ejected after hitting Greensboro’s Luis Pintor, the second time in the game Pintor had been hit … Vazquez played with many of Lexington’s players last year in Burlington … An undrafted free agent out of college, Vazquez played independent ball before being signed by Kansas City … He was released after his season in the Appalachian League and signed by the Marlins.