Bill Hass on Baseball:Hoppers don’t lose any ground despite loss

Hoppers don’t lose any ground despite loss
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball at

The Hoppers’ offense never got in gear Tuesday night and the result was a 4–0 loss to Kannapolis. (Full disclosure: I was not able to be there.)

But the Hoppers got some help from Charleston, which rallied for two runs in the bottom of the eighth and beat Hickory 4–3.

The upshot is that Hickory remains in first place in the SAL’s Northern Division, one game ahead of the Hoppers. West Virginia, the stealth team in the pennant race, was rained out at Lakewood. The Power actually gained some ground and trails the Crawdads by 1 1/2 games and the Hoppers by half a game.

The good news for the Hoppers is that they don’t have to pass Hickory, they just have to catch the Crawdads and stay even. Because Greensboro has played two fewer games, the percentages favor the Hoppers. If they are tied with the Crawdads at the end of the second half, the Hoppers would claim first place by percentage points, and thus earn a berth in the playoffs.

That’s what Kannapolis did in the first half, when it finished in a games-behind tie with Lakewood for first place, but won the playoff berth with a .574 percentage (39-29 record) to Lakewood’s .571 (40–30).

The offense was held to three hits Tuesday— two by Jhonny Santos and one by James Nelson?—?by a quartet of Kannapolis pitchers and never really threatened. Blake Hickman started and went four innings, Ben Wright pitched the next two and earned the win, Jake Elliot went two more and Kade McClure finished it off in the ninth.

“We hit a lot of balls hard, just right to their defense,” said Hoppers manager Todd Pratt in a telephone conversation. “That’s a good team on the other side. I know they’re on the bottom (in the second half) but they don’t make mistakes.”

Michael King pitched well, despite giving up four runs in seven innings. Joel Booker’s ground ball on the first pitch of the game hit the third base bag and kicked into left field, resulting in a double. Booker moved to third on a wild pitch by King and scored on a sacrifice fly by Luis Gonzalez.

The other Kannapolis runs came on homers?—?a solo shot by Jake Burger in the fourth and a two-run blast by Casey Schroeder in the fifth.

“Two bad pitches by King; otherwise, I thought he pitched well enough to win,” Pratt said. “We just didn’t give him enough support.”

Dustin Beggs will start Wednesday’s game to try and stop the Hoppers’ three-game losing streak and gain his 10th win of the season.

But first things first. Tuesday’s loss means the Hoppers need to win Wednesday night against the Intimidators. Dustin Beggs gets the start to try and stop Greensboro’s three-game losing streak.