Bill Hass on Baseball:Hoppers begin key home stand

Hoppers begin key home stand
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball at…..

Todd Pratt is not a manager who looks too far ahead. Or, if he does, he’s not about to admit it.

Twenty games remain in the SAL’s regular season and the Hoppers must play winning baseball to have a chance to win the Northern Division’s second half. Pratt’s outlook is simple?—?one game at a time, one series at a time. It’s a habit he developed during a 14-year career in the major leagues.

“We’ll go out and do our job and on the last day we’ll see where we are,” he said. “I believe in this team and no matter what happens, I’m proud of the way they’ve played. ”

The next series in front of the Hoppers is a three-game set against Delmarva that starts Tuesday at First National Bank Field. Following that, they continue the home stand with four games against Hickory.

Here’s the situation as it currently stands. Hickory is in first place with a 30–20 record. Hagerstown is second at 27–21, trailing the Crawdads by two games. The Hoppers (26–22) and West Virginia (27–23) are three games behind.

Since the Hoppers don’t play Hagerstown or West Virginia the rest of the way, they must rely on some help from other teams. Greensboro does control its own fate against Hickory, which it faces in eight more games.

Many of the Hoppers’ best offensive players— Corey Bird, Boo Vazquez and Colby Lusignan— have been in Jupiter awhile and James Nelson, their best hitter, is sidelined with a hamstring injury. Recent additions, including three of this year’s draft picks, have helped pick up some slack.

Brian Miller, the Marlins’ top draft choice, is hitting .310 with 11 stolen bases. Catcher Jared Barnes has gone 3-for-9 in four games. Infielder Micah Brown, who has been plugged into Nelson’s spot at third base, is 4-for-9 in three games.

“Brown has grabbed the opportunity in front of him,” Pratt said, “and has given us some timely hits.”

The Hoppers have had to scrap on offense all year. The constants have been defense and pitching, especially the latter. Recently-acquired Brandon Miller will start Tuesday, followed by Ethan Clark and Michael King. Three other starters are available in Dustin Beggs, Kolton Mahoney and Max Duval. The Marlins determine how the rotation will go.

“I feel confident that our pitching will shut the other team down,” Pratt said.

Duval has been superb lately. Duval won two of the four games the Hoppers won on their road trip. Both were the second games of doubleheaders. He went the distance (seven innings) in each one, giving up a total of one run, three hits and one walk with 16 strikeouts.

The 26-year-old left-hander was signed out of and independent league. After giving up three home runs in his debut, he regrouped and threw two gems.

“He commands the zone, has a good breaking ball and controls his cutter,” Pratt said. “He’s mature out there on the mound. The game against Hickory (on Aug. 8) should have been a perfect game. A ball that went for a hit in left field should have been caught.”