Hoppers rebound with 10–4 victory
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball at www.gsohoppers.com
Boo Vazquez is working on a no-frills approach to hitting.
“I’m simplifying,” the Hoppers’ left fielder said Saturday night after a 10–4 win over Kannapolis. “Hit the good pitches and don’t swing at the bad ones.”
Vazquez hit his second homer in as many nights, a solo shot, and added an RBI triple and a sacrifice fly to drive in three runs. For the three games of the series, he’s 5-for-10 with two homers, five RBIs and three runs scored.
He has pushed his average to .311.
“I’ve been working on some things with (hitting coach Frank Moore),” Vazquez said, “and they’re starting to show up.”
One night after the Hoppers took an 11–4 beating by the Intimidators, they rebounded with 13 hits of their own.
Corey Bird led the way with three, and Aaron Knapp, Colby Lusignan and Vazquez added two each.
Not only did the middle of the order produce, but the one and two hitters, Knapp and Bird, combined to go 5-for-8 with four RBIs and two runs.
“That’s our job as speed guys,” Bird said. “We need to get on base and score runs. I’m looking to get on or move runners over. And if there are runners in scoring position, then I need to be a run-producer.”
Bird drove in the Hoppers’ first run with a single in the second inning, drove in another with a single in the fourth and beat out an infield hit in the seventh and eventually scored on a passed ball.
Bird and Knapp, both left-handed hitters, have developed a knack for getting many of their hits to left field.
“We’ve been working on that with them,” said manager Todd Pratt, “and they’re starting to get good swings that way.”
Bird said his approach is to stay up the middle and to left field. That works for him because he’s not going to hit many home runs. In fact, only he and Eric Gutierrez of the current players on the roster are without one.
“I don’t hit a lot of them,” he said, “but one will come.”
He has compensated for that by driving in 20 runs, third on the team behind Colby Lusignan’s 26 and Vazquez’ 22.
Kannapolis had rapped out 30 hits and scored 19 runs in the first two games. This time, Hoppers’ pitchers stopped them on four hits. Two of those were home runs, pushing the Intimidators’ total to 11 for the series. But the Hoppers put the clamps on Joel Booker and Jameson Fisher, who were a combined 13-for-20 with three homers in the series. They each went 0-for-3.
Jordan Holloway pitched six innings and picked up his first win of the season. Although he gave up two homers, he allowed only two other hits and struck out five.
“He went in with a good game plan,” said pitching coach Mark DiFelice, “and that was to pound his fastball inside.
“He was able to throw his breaking ball for strikes early in the count. And he competed. It’s good to see someone with his stuff be successful.”
L.J. Brewster pitched a scoreless seventh. Michael Mertz had to leave the eighth after throwing 30 pitches, so Marcus Crescentini got the final out of the inning, leaving the bases loaded, and retired the side in order to close out the game.
In the tight Northern Division race, first-place Hagerstown won to move to 29–19. Lakewood lost and dropped to 28–21. The Hoppers are 27–21, two games behind the Suns, and Kannapolis fell to 25–22.
Greensboro and Kannapolis finish the four-game series with a game Sunday that starts at 7 p.m. instead of the usual 4 o’clock time. Dustin Beggs will be the Hoppers starter.
NOTES: James Nelson beat out an infield hit to stretch his hitting streak to 13 games … Catcher Jarett Rindfleisch injured the knuckle of the index finger on his throwing hand in the fifth inning and was replaced by Alex Jones … If Rindfleisch, who will have x-rays Sunday, heads to the disabled list, the Hoppers will add another catcher … Reliever Ben Meyer was promoted to Jupiter and replaced on the roster by Parker Bugg … Also added to the roster was pitcher Reilly Hovis, a 9th-round draft choice in 2015 out of North Carolina.