Bill Hass on Baseball:Hoppers drub Hickory to open series

Hoppers drub Hickory to open series
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball at

It’s not easy to go back out and play baseball after a rain delay of two hours and 19 minutes.
But the Hoppers handled it well Friday night, giving division-leading Hickory an 11–0 drubbing in the opener of a four-game series.

“All the adrenaline is gone after a delay that long,” said manager Todd Pratt. “But we had to get the game in and I’m glad we did.”

The win pulled the Hoppers within two games of Hickory in the Northern Division. Hagerstown, by beating Kannapolis, remained tied with Greensboro in second place. West Virginia beat Greenville and trails by three games.

This one was settled early. A three-run homer by Jarett Rindfleisch in the first inning was followed by three more runs in the second. So the Hoppers had a 6–0 cushion when the umpires waved the players off the field.

After the delay, they tacked on five more runs in the bottom of the third inning. The 11–0 score stood up through the rest of the game.

“That was a big home run by Rindfleisch to jump on them for a three-run lead,” Pratt said.

Rindfleisch had been critical of himself for striking out twice with runners in scoring position in Thursday’s 1–0 loss to Delmarva. He wasn’t going to let that happen again, cracking his fifth homer of the year on a line drive to left field that scored Brian Miller and Luis Pintor ahead of him.

“I was just swinging it today, seeing the ball real well,” Rindfleisch said.

In the second inning, before the rain hit, Rony Cabrera belted a solo homer, Luis Pintor doubled in a run and Eric Gutierrez added an RBI single. Cabrera finished the night with three hits and two RBIs.

“He’s been swinging the bat a lot better this week,” Pratt said.

The 6–0 lead proved to be more than enough, but the five add-on runs in the third inning didn’t hurt.

“We’ve had a couple of games where we came out flat after a delay,” Rindfleisch said. “We talked about that in the locker room, about how you have to turn that switch back on.”

The length of the delay precluded either starting pitcher from returning. The Hoppers got a lot of help from Hickory’s Dario Beltre, who hit two batters and walked two more after play resumed. By the time the inning was over, Gutierrez had picked up two RBIs, Cabrera and Miller one each and another run scored on an error.

Hoppers starter Dustin Beggs was sharp for the first two innings, retiring six of the seven batters he faced.

“It stinks that Beggs only got two innings,” Rindfleisch said. “He had four pitches working for him tonight.
Getting the shutout was important (for the staff). Guys can zone out after a delay, but they stayed locked in and focused.”

The bullpen had to cover seven innings and did that nicely. Carlos Diaz, in his first Hoppers game, pitched two innings, Evan Beal went three and Michael Mertz, who had rested for four days, finished the last two. Hickory managed just three hits and got only one runner to second base.

“Beal really picked us up by giving us three innings,” said pitching coach Mark DiFelice. “It can be tough coming in with an 11–0 lead. We want them to throw strikes, force contact and limit baserunners. Getting the shutout set the tone for the series.”

Pratt’s message to his team was to try and win every inning.

“It’s a good start to the series,” he said. “A great start would be to win tomorrow night.”
Max Duval draws the start for Saturday’s 7 p.m. game.

NOTES: Beal was credited with the win on a scorer’s decision, moving his record to 3–0 … Hickory starter A.J. Alexy and shortstop Brendon Davis are two players picked up by Texas from the Dodgers in the Yu Darvish trade.