Bill Hass on Baseball:BlueClaws best Hoppers one more time

BlueClaws best Hoppers one more time
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball at….

The Hoppers bid adieu to Lakewood Wednesday afternoon after playing the BlueClaws for the 21st and final time.
Lakewood got the best of the day, and the season series, with an 8–5 victory. It was the 13th time the BlueClaws emerged as the winners, compared to eight wins for the Hoppers.

“They’re a good club, and so are we,” said Hoppers manager Todd Pratt. “I’ve enjoyed playing them this year.”

The BlueClaws put together four two-run innings to win this one. The Hoppers kept coming back to close the gap but couldn’t get a shutdown inning to keep the score where it was.

After falling behind 2–0 in the first inning, Greensboro scored twice to tie the game in the third. But in the fifth inning, Lakewood scored twice off of Hoppers starter Kolton Mahoney to take a 4–2 lead.

When the Hoppers shaved a run off the deficit in the bottom of the fifth, Lakewood scored twice against reliever Parker Bugg in the top of the sixth to push the lead to 6–3.

A two-run homer by Walker Olis in the seventh cut the lead to 6–5, but the BlueClaws added two runs in the top of the ninth off Reilly Hovis to wrap things up.

Lakewood ripped six doubles among its 11 hits. Mickey Moniak had two and drove in three runs, and Arquimedes Gamboa had two more and scored twice. Jesus Alastre, the ?9 batter, had three hits, two RBIs and two runs.

“It was a back-and-forth game,” Pratt said. “They were tough on our bullpen for the second straight day. They hit a lot of balls that found the gaps and we hit a lot of balls right at them. It seemed like all our hard-hit balls went at Moniak (in center field). They played good defense.”

James Nelson had two hits and two RBIs for the Hoppers, Brian Miller had two hits and an RBI and Luis Pintor singled, drew two walks and scored twice. Olis’ home run was his fourth of the season.

The Hoppers tagged Lakewood starter Nick Fanti for three runs in his stint and added two more off reliever Ismael Cabrera. But Will Hibbs, a 6-foot-7 left-hander, shut them down over the last 2 2/3 innings to earn his 13th save. Hibbs retired eight of the nine batters he faced. He struck out four, mostly with a breaking ball that registered 71 or 72 on the radar gun.

One oddball play came in the eighth inning when Greensboro’s Jhonny Santos dropped down a bunt with one out. Hibbs fielded it and his throw to first was a bit off-line. Santos ran into first baseman Gregori Rivero, knocking the glove off his hand as the ball squirted loose. But home plate umpire Mike Snover called Santos out and Pratt came out to challenge the call.

“He (Snover) said Santos was running inside the first-base line the whole way until the last couple of steps,” Pratt said. “So he was out for interference. If the pitcher had made a good throw, Santos probably would have beaten it.”

Pratt relinquished the third base coaches’ box to Angel Espada, who has been at first base most of the year. Pratt, who also did that recently on the road at Delmarva, said he prefers the dugout perspective because he can talk to the players more often between innings. It was nothing new for Espada.

“I managed for five years,” Espada said. “This is part of our development as coaches. The scoreboard dictates a lot of what you do and you have to be aware of the situation.”

The Hoppers begin a four-game series against Kannapolis Thursday night. Newly-signed pitcher Max Duval, recently signed out of the independent Frontier League, will be the first-game starter.

In the remainder of the season, the puzzling SAL schedule pits the Hoppers against Kannapolis 14 times and against Hickory 11 more times?—?25 of the last 31 games against two teams.