Lusignan follows a “down” with a big “up”
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball at www.gsohoppers.com
It’s the nature of baseball that there’s almost always another game the next day, a chance to erase what happened the night before.
Colby Lusignan did just that Saturday at First National Bank Field. He slammed a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning, propelling the Hoppers to a dramatic 6–5 victory over Rome.
The night before, Lusignan had struck out four times?—?ironically, the “Golden Sombrero” on Cinco de Mayo?—?although the Hoppers at least won the game. After that performance, he might have been forgiven if had come to the park Saturday and wanted to make some changes. But that wasn’t the case.
“Baseball is a game of ups and downs,” Lusignan said. “You try to stay confident and stay with your approach. You can’t freak out about it. I worked on some minor timing things but I stuck to my guns with my normal routine.
Friday was just one of those games and if you keep swinging, you know you’ll come out of it.”
Hitting coach Frank Moore put it another way: “You have to have a short memory in baseball.”
Lusignan actually came out of it on his first at-bat with a single and added another single his next time up.
“It was nice to see I could still get the bat on the ball,” he said with a smile.
Down 5–3, the Hoppers began the ninth with Justin Twine hitting a high chopper to shortstop. Twine, in the throes of a terrible hitting slump, didn’t let that affect his hustle. He sprinted hard out of the batters box all the way through first base, beating the throw by an eyelash for an infield hit.
“You have to give credit to Justin for busting it down the line,” Lusignan said.
James Nelson followed with a sharp single to left field for another hit. That brought up Lusignan, a left-handed hitter, to face Braves’ lefty Thomas Burrows. Two of the four times he struck out Friday came against a left-hander.
“Through my career, in college (Lander University in Greenwood, S.C.) and in professional ball, I’ve felt confident against left-handers,” Lusignan said. “At the end of the day, the ball is coming at you and you have to try and do some damage.”
After throwing ball one, Burrows dropped two breaking balls in for strikes. Lusignan was ready for the next pitch.
“I tried to keep my weight balanced so if he threw me a fastball I could shoot it through the other way (to left field),” he said. “He threw another breaking ball and I saw it pretty good out of his hand. I got the barrel on the ball and off the bat, I knew I got it pretty good.
“I had maybe one or two walk-offs in college, but it’s a different feeling in pro ball. It was a special moment.”
With two runners on and no outs, manager Todd Pratt said he never considered having Lusignan bunt the runners over.
“Some managers would do that,” he said, “but I wanted to let the big man hit. That’s what he’s here for and that’s the way he should be hitting it.”
Pratt lauded Twine’s effort to begin the bottom of the ninth.
“Lusignan got the home run, but (Twine) was the key,” he said. “He kept battling and did it for the team. That’s an unselfish player.”
Hoppers starter Dustin Beggs pitched seven innings, allowing nine hits and three runs (two unearned) and recording eight ground ball outs.
“Beggs has been an anchor in the rotation,” said pitching coach Mark DiFelice. “He and L.J. Brewster (Friday’s winner) get a lot of grounders with their two-seam fastballs.”
Beggs helped his cause by picking off two runners at first base. DiFelice said he did that by varying his rhythm and how long he held the ball so runners couldn’t get their timing on his delivery and got caught leaning toward second base.
Ryley McEachern picked up the win despite a shaky ninth inning in which he walked two batters, hit another and had an error behind him but limited the damage to one run.
The teams play the third game of the series Sunday at 4 p.m. with Dylan Lee starting for the Hoppers. Monday’s 10:45 a.m. school kids’ game will feature the debut of Braxton Garrett, Miami’s first-round draft pick from 2016.
NOTES: Nelson had two hits, raising his average to .306, and scored twice … Corey Bird had two hits, including an RBI double, and Alex Jones doubled to drive in his first run of the season … Former Hopper Anfernee Seymour went 2-for-5 for Rome, including a triple, and scored a run.