Hoppers Lose Despite 9th Inning Drama
By Bill Hass at www.gsohoppers.com
The Hoppers provided plenty of drama Thursday night but all they had to show for it was disappointment.
They couldn’t capitalize on a bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the ninth inning and fell to Augusta, 5–3. It was the Hoppers’ fifth straight loss, dropping their record to 7–8. It’s the first time they have been below .500 this season.
Greensboro dug an early hole, falling behind 4–0, but battled its way back in it. Colby Lusignan’s solo home run in the fourth inning put the Hoppers on the board, and they added two more in the fifth to cut the lead to 4–3.
It stayed that way until the eighth, when reliever Ben Meyer, in his fourth inning of work, surrendered a solo homer to Skyler Ewing to provide an insurance run for the Greenjackets.
In the ninth, Corey Bird drew a one-out walk but was forced out at second base when Rony Cabrera hit into a fielder’s choice. Then, with the Hoppers down to their last out, Dalton Wheat provided one of the best at-bats anyone will see this season.
Wheat worked the count to 3-and-2 off Augusta reliever Patrick Ruotolo, then started fouling off pitches. He spoiled seven straight, including one long one that he yanked out of the park but well foul. On each pitch of the full count, Cabrera was in motion from first base and had to return to do it again. After the fourth foul ball, he looked exhausted.
Finally, on his 13th pitch to Wheat, Ruotolo threw one out of the strike zone that would have been ball four but it hit Wheat in the leg instead. With runners on first and second, Lusignan got an infield hit to load the bases.
It was up to Branden Berry, who hit a high chopper to third base that was fielded cleanly for the final out.
The teams meet again Friday night at First National Bank Field. Michael King, who has won both his starts, will start for the Hoppers.
NOTES: Lusignan ended the game 3-for-3 with two walks … Ruotolo earned his second save for Augusta, but needed 32 pitches to do it … The Hoppers’ defense turned four double plays … Augusta catcher Will Albertson is a native of Archdale who played at Catawba … Greenjackets outfielder Jacob Heyward, who drilled a two-run homer, is the brother of Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward … Two Hoppers pitchers switched roles, with L.J. Brewster moving into the rotation and Alex Mateo into the bullpen … Reliever Travis Neubeck was sent to extended spring training and the Hoppers added C.J. Robinson, who first pitched here in 2014 and led the SAL in saves last season with 22.