Bill Hass on Baseball:Pitching carries Hoppers to twin bill sweep

Pitching carries Hoppers to twin bill sweep
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball at

It’s not often a team can score a total of four runs and win a doubleheader, but that’s what the Hoppers did Sunday.

Playing at Delmarva, Greensboro squeezed out a 1–0 win in eight innings in the first game and a 3–2 victory in the second. The Hoppers took three of four from the Shorebirds, who began the series as the leaders in the Southern Division.

As it was in the first half, the second half is shaping up as a four-team race. Hagerstown is on top with a 20–14 record, Delmarva is second at 20–15, Hickory third at 20–16 and the Hoppers fourth at 18–16. The Hoppers are two games out of first place.

Greensboro returns home Monday to open a three-game series with Lakewood, followed by a four-game set against Kannapolis.

The first game was a classic pitchers’ duel between Dustin Beggs of the Hoppers and Alex Wells of the Shorebirds, who matched zeroes for six innings. Wells gave way to Steven Klimek but Beggs continued for the complete-game, extra-inning shutout (doubleheaders are seven-inning games).

Beggs allowed just three hits, didn’t walk anyone and struck out six. He was especially efficient, throwing only 81 pitches, and he retired the last 13 batters he faced.

“He was in full control,” manager Todd Pratt said of the right-hander, who improved his record to 9–5.

The Hoppers finally broke through in the top of the eighth. Rony Cabrera opened with a single, went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jarett Rindfleisch and then to third on a wild pitch. Luis Pintor grounded to third base but Cabrera was able to score on the fielder’s choice.

That was all Beggs needed. He retired the side in order to preserve the win.

Kyle Keller, who has been moved from the bullpen into the starting rotation, started the second game. He put up three shutout innings and came out in the fourth when his pitch count reached 64. Reilly Hovis relieved him with one out and got the second out before giving up a two-run single and then getting the last out.

Hovis bounced back with a shutout inning in the fifth. Kolton Mahoney pitched a one-two-three sixth and Nestor Bautista did the same in the seventh. Hovis wound up as the winner and Bautista got the save.

The second-game offense belonged to Brian Miller and James Nelson. Miller scored all three runs and Nelson drove him in each time. Miller doubled in the first and scored on Nelson’s sacrifice fly. Miller walked in the third, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Nelson’s single. In the fifth, Miller reached on a fielder’s choice, moved to second on a walk to Aaron Knapp and scored on Nelson’s single.

Miller finished the doubleheader 4-for-7, with a pair of doubles.

Pratt was pleased with the pitching in the four games.

“We only had one bad inning the whole series,” he said. “We had some tough luck Saturday night. (Starter) Michel King was outstanding but the back of the bullpen, which has been strong all season, had a hiccup.”

King throttled Delmarva for seven innings, leaving with a 4–1 lead, but Delmarva scored four times against the bullpen to pull out a 5–4 win.