Bill Hass on Baseball:Hoppers can’t get clutch hit, get swept

Hoppers can’t get clutch hit, get swept
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at

An inability to drive in runners in scoring position continues to plague the Hoppers.

A last-inning rally was thwarted by that very thing Tuesday night in the second game of a doubleheader against Hickory. The resulting 2–1 loss, coupled with the 5–1 defeat in the first game, extended the Hoppers’ losing streak to five games.

Offensively, the only runs the Hoppers scored in 14 innings were solo homers?—?by Thomas Jones in the first game and Isael Soto in the second.

Soto had been mired in a 3-for-43 slump, rarely making good contact, before he singled in the fourth inning in the second game. He led off the seventh with a home run to right field off reliever Joe Barlow.

Barlow briefly lost his command, walking Marcos Rivera and Cameron Baranek back-to-back with no outs. Will Allen executed a sacrifice bunt that moved the runners into scoring position.

But Micah Brown took a called strike three for the second out and Jones was thrown out on a sharp grounder to shortstop to end the game.

Hickory’s starting pitching held the Hoppers in check in both games. Noah Brewer pitched all seven innings of the opener, allowing just four hits. Jones had half of those with his homer and a bunt single.

It was the first game of season for 19-year-old Ryan Dease, fourth round out of HS in Orlando in 2017.

Ryan Dease made his season debut and threw five shutout innings in the second game. Dease was a fourth-round pick out of high school last summer. He gave up five hits, including a bunt single and a double by Brown, but allowed just one runner to reach third base.

From a pitching standpoint, the Hoppers got what they wanted from two spot starts. Dustin Beggs gave them five innings in the opener and registered 10 strikeouts. Nestor Bautista pitched five more innings in the second game, giving up three hits and two runs.

Beggs surrendered three runs, all unearned, as the Hoppers’ defense unraveled with four errors. It started early, when Hickory’s pesky Yonny Hernandez led off with a double. Beggs tried to pick him off, then tried to stop his motion, but wound up throwing the ball into left field. Baranek came in to scoop it up but bobbled the ball and lost his footing as Hernandez cruised around to score thanks to the two errors on one play.

In the fourth inning, Beggs gave up a leadoff single to Bubba Thompson and a second single to Yohel Pozo. As center fielder Jhonny Santos came in to field Pozo’s grounder, he whiffed on the pickup and the ball rolled to the warning track. By the time Soto came all the way over from right field to track it down and throw it in, Thompson and Pozo both scored and it was 3–0, which turned out to be plenty for the Crawdads.

“Beggs had good stuff with a really good slider,” said pitching coach Mark DiFelice. “And Bautista gave us five. That was exactly what we wanted.”

It was Bautista’s longest outing since 2015, when he went that distance in several starts with Batavia. He has been a reliever since 2016.

The first game was notable for the appearance of left-hander Gabriel Castellanos. He last pitched on June 8, 2016, with the Hoppers in a game at Hickory. Castellanos underwent two surgeries, including Tommy John, that kept him inactive. After giving up two runs in his first inning, he retired the side in order in his second.

Castellanos was 3–1 with 3.78 in 2016 in Greensboro, this was his first game since June 8, 2016, when he started and pitched four innings at Hickory.

The teams play another doubleheader Wednesday, with the first game beginning at noon. Taylor Braley will start that one and Colton Hock will make a spot start in the second one. (Full disclosure: I will not be able to see this one, nor the Thursday series finale).