Bill Hass on Baseball:Drive’s defensive play beats Hoppers

Drive’s defensive play beats Hoppers
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at

Greenville took a page out of the Hoppers’ book Saturday night.

The Drive threw out a runner at the plate in the ninth inning and beat the Hoppers 2–1. The game was odd in the respect that there were no RBIs. Two runs scored on wild pitches and another on a throwing error.

On Friday, the Hoppers made a key defensive play when left-fielder Jhonny Santos made a perfect throw to catcher Michael Hernandez to cut down the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning. Greensboro went on to win 9–8.

This time, it was Greenville’s turn. Marcos Rivera led off the bottom of the ninth with a single and moved to second on a groundout. B.J. Lopez lined a single to right field and manager Todd Pratt, coaching at third base, waved Rivera home.

Marino Campana fielded the ball in right field and fired a throw home to catcher Isaias Lucena, who got the tag down to nail Rivera. Santos then hit into a fielder’s choice to end the game.

“You’ve got to send (the runner) there,” Pratt said, “and they’ve got to make the play. And they did, as we did last night.”

The game was a pitcher’s duel for six innings, with Greensboro’s Brady Puckett and Greenville’s Kutter Crawford both throwing shutout ball.

The Hoppers broke through in the seventh against Drive reliever Juan Florentino. Micah Brown singled, stole second, went to third on Santos’ sacrifice bunt and scored on a wild pitch.

Puckett continued by throwing a scoreless seventh but ran into difficulty in the eighth. With runners on second and third with one out, Puckett threw a wild pitch that hit home plate and bounced away to the right. Frankie Rios scored from third and, when Lorenzo Cedrola rounded third, Lopez threw the ball away, allowing the second run to score.

“He had no play (and should have held the ball),” said Pratt, a major league catcher for 14 years. “Been there, done that.”

Puckett was the hard-luck loser after pitching 7 2/3 innings, the deepest by any Hoppers starter this season.

“All his stuff was working and he only threw 74 pitches through seven innings, so we had no problem sending him back out for the eighth,” said pitching coach Mark DiFelice. “He was just unlucky on that wild pitch.”

The Hoppers didn’t muster much offense. Their biggest threat came in the fifth, when they left the bases loaded. The two red-hot hitters, Thomas Jones and Lazaro Alfonso, were cooled off and went a combined 0-for-8.

“They can’t do it every night,” Pratt said.

Greensboro hit several deep balls that were caught. The best play was by Cedrola in left-center field. He went above the fence to spear a drive by Garvis Lara.

The teams meet Sunday at 2 p.m. in the third game of the series. Brandon Miller will be the Hoppers’ starter. They wrap it up Monday with a game that begins at 10:45 a.m. on Guilford County School Day. Ryan Lillie will start that one. (Full disclosure: I will miss both games.)

NOTES: The Hoppers are now 10–4 in one-run games … Drive pitcher Brendan Nail, who played at Page and Western Carolina, is on the disabled list and did not make the trip … Umpire Harley Acosta, who was hit on the foot by a batted ball Friday, was unable to make it to Saturday’s game and will probably miss the last two games of the series … Richard Hughes, a local umpire, filled in Saturday.