It had been awhile since Blake Barber had received the obligatory pie tin full of shaving cream in his face, but he welcomed it Tuesday night.
Barber had several game-winning hits in the first week after he joined the Hoppers in late June. This time, his single scored Justin Bohn with the winning run to end a 13-inning marathon a few minutes before midnight, giving the Hoppers an 11-10 win over Delmarva.
The victory snapped a four-game losing streak and made the four-hour and 53-minute contest worthwhile.
"We were all grinding away, running on adrenaline," Barber said. "It was a long one and we needed it, especially for our home fans."
The game was full of crazy twists and turns. The Hoppers, struggling on offense recently, banged out 20 hits. They scored in six consecutive innings - five with single runs and once with two runs. After they couldn't score the winning run in the bottom of the ninth, manager Jorge Hernandez made six defensive changes in the top of the 10th inning.
Losing, after being swept in four games by Kannapolis, might have sapped what little confidence
the team has left. But after leaving the winning run in scoring position in the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th innings, the Hoppers broke through in the 13th.
Bohn, in his first game as a Hopper after being moved up from Batavia (Anthony Gomez went on the DL with a sore shouler), led off with a single. Rehiner Cordova moved him to second with a sacrifice and Matt Juengel walked on a close 3-and-2 pitch. Jesus Solorzano hit into a fielder's choice, pitcher to second base, but hustled down the line and beat the relay throw to prevent the double play that would have ended the inning.
Barber picked on a 1-0 pitch from Mark Blackmar and drove it into the left field corner for the winning hit, completing a comeback from a 9-4 deficit.
"He had been running fastballs and sinkers in on our hands," Barber said. "So I stepped off the plate a little bit and tried to do what I could and got the barrel around on it."
It was a measure of redemption for Barber, who flied out with the bases loaded to end the 11th inning.
"You just wait for another at-bat," he said. "You want to get up again and be the man to drive in the winning run."
The hitters piled up the stats. Cameron Flynn had three hits, including his 8th homer. Bohn, Colin Moran, Juengel and Solorzano also had three each. Solorzano belted his 14th homer, a two-run shot that tied the game 9-9 in the bottom of the eighth.
The box score showed Tony Caldwell going 0-for-5, but he had two crucial RBIs. One came on a sacrifice fly in the fifth and the second came on a sacrifice bunt in the 10th. After the Shorebirds had taken a 10-9 lead, Caldwell dropped a beauty down the first base line to score Solorzano and tie the game.
"It was a safety squeeze," Hernandez said. "With runners on first and third, it has to be the right kind of bunt. If it's a good one, the runner will score. If it's not, he'll go back to third and the runner on first will move to second. It has to be executed toward first base, and that's what Tony did."
Hoppers pitching was a tale of two games within the game. In the first five innings, Chad James and Mason Hope surrendered nine runs. In the next eight innings, Hope, Beau Wright and Ronald Barnes held the Shorebirds to one run.
Barnes entered with two outs in the top of the 10th and gave up an infield hit that scored a run to put Delmarva ahead. After that, he retired 10 straight batters, striking out four.
"He kept the ball in the bottom of the zone, using his fastball and slider," said pitching coach Blake McGinley.
There wasn't much time for the Hoppers to enjoy the win. The second game of the series is at 12:30 Wednesday.
"We needed something like this," Hernandez said. "We were very aggressive at the plate and maybe that will carry on through the series."