Lakewood pulls away in late innings
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball at www.gsohoppers.com
The Hoppers’ string of one-run games came to a rude end Tuesday night.
Lakewood broke open a tight game late, scoring eight runs in the last two innings, and laid an 11–2 licking on the Hoppers. Greensboro had played seven straight one-run games, winning six of them.
The outcome dropped the Hoppers two games behind Hickory, which took over the lead in the Northern Division of the SAL by beating Hagerstown 10–1. The Crawdads are in first place with a 22–16 record, Hagerstown trails by a game at 20–16, Delmarva sits at 20–17 and the Hoppers are 19–17.
Greensboro’s defense, which had been really solid lately, committed three errors, two by second baseman J.C. Millan. Those led to four unearned runs. Another miscue came when a popup on the edge of the outfield grass wasn’t caught, although no error was charged.
The BlueClaws rapped out 14 hits, including four homers and three doubles. Darick Hall belted a two-run homer, his 20th of the year, to increase his RBI total to 76. He leads both categories by a wide margin the SAL. Gregori Rivero added three hits, including his first homer.
The hitter the Hoppers couldn’t handle was Austin Listi, who went 4-for-5 and scored four times. He ripped solo home runs in his first two at-bats and added a double and single.
Listi was a 17th-round draft choice this summer by the Phillies. He slugged 24 home runs at Dallas Baptist, spent some time at Williamsport and then joined the BlueClaws Monday night. After going 0-for-4, he had a breakout game Tuesday.
“He’s a very aggressive hitter and I like the way he swings the bat,” said Hoppers manager Todd Pratt. “He did some damage tonight.”
Lakewood’s starter was Alejandro Requena, just obtained by the Phillies in a trade with Colorado. Requena had started three times against the Hoppers when he was with Asheville and he turned his first Lakewood start into his ninth win of the season, going six innings and allowing just four hits.
“Their starter handled us,” Pratt said. “Obviously Philadelphia saw something in him and got him (as part of a trade). He has pitchability and he looked good.”
The Hoppers nicked Requena for two runs in the bottom of the third inning and might have had more, but he was able to limit the damage. In the other eight innings against Requena and two relievers, the Hoppers never had more than one runner on base.
Brandon Miller, recently obtained by the Marlins in a trade with Seattle, made his second start for the Hoppers. He was shaky early, giving up three runs (two unearned) in three innings. Then he settled down and retired the last nine batters he faced.
“We started seeing him get some confidence and pitch with more conviction,” said pitching coach Mark DiFelice. “He used his fastball on both sides of the plate, his curve had good shape and his slider was down.”
Chad Smith threw a shutout seventh but was tagged for six runs (four unearned) in the eighth inning.
“It was a good game until the eighth inning,” Pratt said. “Smith had a clunker of an inning and it just happened in a 3–2 game.”
The teams wrap up the three-game series Wednesday at noon, meeting for the 21st and final time this season. Kolton Mahoney will start for the Hoppers against Nick Fanti for Lakewood.