Bill Hass on Baseball:Pintor’s hit wins marathon for Hoppers

Pintor’s hit wins marathon for Hoppers
from Bill Hass on Baseball at

On the 488th pitch of Saturday’s game at First National Bank Field, Luis Pintor sent the Hoppers home happy.

Pintor slashed a double into the right field corner to score Jhonny Santos from second base, giving the Hoppers a 5–4 win over Kannapolis. It took 15 innings, lasting four hours and 39 minutes, to complete the marathon.

“I’m very happy,” said Pintor. “And very excited.”

Greensboro moved its record to 21–19 and crept within one game of first place in the Northern Division of the SAL. Hagerstown and Hickory are tied at the top, although the Suns have the edge by percentage points over the Crawdads, .550 to .548. The standings remained bunched after Saturday’s results, with just four games separating the top from the bottom.

The game was one of the crazier ones of this season. Kannapolis began using position players to pitch starting with the 11th inning. Shortstop Grant Massey delivered three scoreless innings, allowing just one hit with his one pitch, a fastball that varied between 74 and 81 miles per hour.

Catcher Casey Schroeder was next up and threw harder, from 80–84, but walked three batters. He got through the 14th inning with no runs, but in the 15th he walked Santos, who was sacrificed to second by Jarett Rindfleisch. J.C. Millan popped out, bringing Pintor to the plate, and he ended things.

“I finally hit it good on my last at-bat,” Pintor said. “He threw me a fastball middle of the plate away, and I was able to hit a line drive.”

So why were the position players so effective on the mound until Pintor’s hit caught up with them? One thing is they throw so differently than regular pitchers and not nearly as fast.

“It’s a timing thing,” said Hoppers first baseman Eric Gutierrez. “And their windup is weird.”
Ironically, if the game had dragged on Gutierrez would have been the first position player the Hoppers would have turned to.

“We would have had (reliever) Jared Lakind for the 16th inning,” said manager Todd Pratt. “After that, we would have been in the same position as Kannapolis, using position players.”

Rony Cabrera would have entered the game at first base and Gutierrez, who pitched in high school, would have been on the mound.

As it was, the Hoppers used five pitchers on their staff. Starter Dustin Beggs went the first six innings and allowed only one run, a solo homer to Mitch Roman in the sixth. Reilly Hovis pitched a shutout seventh, but walked the leadoff batter in the eighth. An error by Pintor brought put a second runner on base and brought up the dangerous Micker Adolfo, who had homered twice in Thursday’s game.

Micker worked the count to 3-and-2, then belted a mile-high, mile-long shot for a three-run homer to tie the game 4–4.

“(Hovis) threw a slider on 3-and-2 and in that spot it’s better to challenge with a fastball,” said pitching coach Mark DiFelice.

“The overlooked thing in this game, because it happened so long ago, was the job by Beggs, who was great for six innings. It’s too bad we didn’t get him the win.”

Beggs was going for his 10th victory and the Hoppers were leading 4–1 after his stint. He gave up six hits, walked one and struck out six.

After Hovis allowed the homer, Kannapolis didn’t score again. Chad Smith threw two innings, Parker Bugg followed with three strong innings with five strikeouts, and Evan Beal pitched two hitless frames and wound up as the winner. Altogether, Hoppers pitchers recorded 18 strikeouts.

Offensively, Aaron Knapp hit his fifth homer of the season and added another RBI on a fielder’s choice. James Nelson had two hits and an RBI, as did Trenton Hill. Brian Miller had two hits and scored twice and Gutierrez had two more hits.

DiFelice said the Hoppers should be OK for pitchers in Sunday’s 4 o’clock game that wraps up the series. Ethan Clark will start and Kolton Mahoney is available as the long man. (Full disclosure: I won’t be at this one.)