Rindfleisch’s clutch hit sparks Hoppers
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball at www.gsohoppers.com
You never know what might get a hitter going.
For Jarett Rindfleisch, a little broken-bat double down the left field line seemed to be just the thing Friday night. It had nothing to do with the outcome of the game, but it gave him some confidence.
Next time up, in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Hoppers’ catcher delivered a solid single up the middle with the bases loaded, driving in two runs. And those were the difference as the Hoppers went on to beat Rome 2–1.
“Maybe that’s just what I need to get me going,” Rindfleisch said of the broken-bat hit. “That’s how baseball works. When I came up with the bases loaded, I just wanted to stick to the middle, maybe get it over the second baseman’s head, and that’s what happened.”
Although he has a couple of home runs, Rindfleisch has scuffled at the plate. He was hitting .122 going into the game, but his 3-for-3 performance raised him 51 points.
“I’ve been working with (hitting coach) Frankie Moore on a lot of things,” he said. “Last night (Thursday) I didn’t have a good night. I wasn’t seeing the ball well. Tonight I wanted to see the ball and hit it hard, just grind it out.”
The clutch hit was just what the Hoppers needed as they continued to struggle with situational hitting. They were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base.
“(Rindfleisch has) been grinding,” said manager Todd Pratt, “and he needed a night like that more than anybody. He got the big hit and also handled the staff well.”
Excellent pitching kept the Hoppers alive. Starter L.J. Brewster allowed one run in six innings as he picked up his third win. He allowed just five hits, including three infield singles and a bunt single. His sinker had the Braves off-balance and he recorded 12 ground-ball outs.
“I’m getting more confident with my fastball command,” he said, “and that helps me get a lot of ground balls. It keeps the double play in order (the Hoppers turned two) and the defense played great.”
Rindfleisch said Brewster “was painting both sides of the plate. He kept his composure and trusted his stuff.”
The bullpen continued its excellent work. Sam Perez retired all six batters he faced and Michael Mertz set the Braves down in order in the ninth to record his first save.
Perez was impressive, especially considering he took a 12.10 ERA into the game.
“Earlier, he didn’t have his slider or any other off-speed pitch,” said pitching coach Mark DiFelice. “He found his slider tonight, and he looked like he had something to prove.”
Rome brought a 17–10 record, second-best in the league, into the game along with the best team ERA at 2.72. The Braves pitched well, holding the Hoppers to seven hits and striking out 12 batters.
Starter Bryse Wilson, a fourth-round pick out of Orange County High School last summer, had a nice contingent of fans from Hillsborough in the stands. He allowed four hits and four walks and was lifted after 85 pitches after 3 2/3 innings. Reliever Oriel Caicedo was charged with the loss.
The teams play the second game of the series Saturday night. Dustin Beggs will start for the Hoppers against Rome’s Jeremy Walker, a native of Advance who played at Gardner-Webb and was drafted in the fifth round last year.
NOTES: Anfernee Seymour, who played most of 2016 with the Hoppers before abruptly being traded to Atlanta, is Rome’s leadoff hitter. He has been moved from shortstop to the outfield and is hitting .305 after going 1-for-4 Friday … The Hoppers’ James Nelson had two doubles and scored a run.