Bill Hass on Baseball:Hoppers shut down by Alec Hansen

Hoppers shut down by Alec Hansen
from Bill Hass at

The Hoppers wore special camouflage jerseys Sunday night, but they couldn’t hide from Alec Hansen.

The special occasion was Military Appreciation Night. What it turned into was a game that Hansen won’t soon forget.

The 6-foot-7, 235-pound right-hander dominated the Hoppers, stopping them on five hits in seven innings and posting 15 strikeouts as Kannapolis cruised to an 8–1 win.

“That’s one of the best arms we’ve seen all year,” said Hoppers manager Todd Pratt. “He’s a good pitcher with a bright future. We got down 5–0 against him and what are you going to do?”

The teams split their four-game series, with both losing ground to Hagerstown in the SAL Northern Division standings. The Suns have won three straight and lead the first-half race with a 30–19 record. Lakewood is next at 29–21, the Hoppers are third at 27–22 and Kannapolis is fourth at 26–22.

Hansen, projected as a high draft pick in 2016, struggled at Oklahoma (10 starts, four relief appearances, 5.40 ERA) and slipped to the second round, where he was nabbed by the White Sox. As a pro, he pitched in 12 games, spread over three teams, with a 2–1 record, a 1.32 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings. Sunday’s win makes him 5–3 with a 2.96 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings with Kannapolis this season.

Of the five hits off of Hansen, only two were hard hit. Alex Jones sent a deep fly ball to left center field that bounced off the glove of one outfielder and off the chest of another, caroming over the fence for a home run in the fifth inning. The other was James Nelson’s sharp single in the third inning. That, by the way, extended Nelson’s hitting streak to 14 games.

Victor Diaz pitched the last two innings, retiring all six batters, five by strikeout. That brought the Hoppers’ total whiffs for the game to a whopping 20.

Kannapolis got all the runs it needed with a four-run fourth inning off Dustin Beggs . Brandon Dulin ripped a three-run homer and Seby Zuvala followed with a solo shot. Those were the 12th and 13th homers of the series (three by Zuvala) for the Indimidators, who came in with a team total of only 17.

There are 20 games left in the first half for Greensboro. Next up is Lakewood, which comes to First National Bank Field to begin a three-game series. Monday’s opener with have a 4 o’clock starting time. Dylan Lee will start for the Hoppers.

“The top four teams (in the division) are all playing well,” Pratt said, “so it’s going to be very important over the next three weeks. Lakewood is a good team and it’s going to come down to who has the best pitching that night.

They have a couple of tough left-handers going the first two games.”

The Hoppers were recently swept in Lakewood, scoring just four runs in three games. But their own pitching was good, with the staff surrendering just nine runs.

NOTES: Catcher Jarett Rindfleisch was placed on the 7-day disabled list … Xrays of the injured knuckle on his right hand revealed no broken bones … Gunner Pollman, who was here briefly last season, was added to the roster as a replacement … Chad Smith fanned four in his two innings … Reilly Hovis, former UNC pitcher, made his season debut and was tagged for three runs in one inning.