Follow Bill's blog, Bill on Baseball, here.
"Manager of the Year!" came the call as Frank Moore walked through the tunnel under the stands to the Hoppers' locker room Tuesday night.
Moments later, a player stuck his head in the coaches' office and uttered the same thing.
Moore soaked it up. Greensboro's hitting coach had spent a busy evening at third base, particularly in the last four innings, as the Hoppers rallied to top Hickory 9-5 at NewBridge Bank Park.
Manager Jorge Hernandez, hobbled by a swollen ankle that he rolled over in the final game of a series at Hagerstown, decided to turn the third base duties over to Moore.
"He did a good job and we got a big victory," Hernandez said with a big smile.
Although it was the first time Moore has done that duty this season, it wasn't new to him. David Berg, the manager last year, gave him 10 to 12 opportunities.
"I would like to be a manager," Moore said, "so this is like a dress rehearsal. It's real fun, and it's a whole lot better when you win.
"You're part of the game, you're in every pitch. The guys battled, they had some good swings and they had some success."
Early on, the success was all Hickory's. The Crawdads jumped on starter Matt Milroy for four runs in the first inning, including two homers, all with two outs. The Hoppers have faced that situation many times before this season, coming to bat already down by several runs.
"I knew four runs was not going to beat us," Hernandez said. "You could tell we were going to battle. I knew we would score some runs as long as our pitchers kept us in the game, and that's exactly what they did."
Milroy righted himself and allowed just one run over the next five innings. Blake Logan pitched the final three innings to pick up the victory, allowing two hits and no runs and striking out six. He gave up a one-out triple in the seventh, but right fielder Jesus Solorzano made a fine diving catch to end the inning and strand the runner.
"Milroy threw a good game after the first inning," said pitching coach Blake McGinley. "It was pretty good to get six innings out of him after that start.
"Logan was really crisp tonight with his fastball and slider. He has been unsure of himself so this was a good building block for him. This level of baseball is a good measure of learning."
It was a satisfying performance for Logan, especially after his last appearance. Entrusted with a 6-0 lead against Delmarva last week, he was pounded for five runs in two-thirds of an inning and the Hoppers wound up losing.
"Tonight, I felt like the underdog," Logan said, "and I don't like that feeling. Hickory has some guys that were high draft picks and were paid a lot of money (Joey Gallo, Lewis Brinson nd Nick Williams) and I wanted to prove they were no better than me. I used my fastball, slider and changeup."
In the ninth, Logan struck out the first two hitters, gave up a single to Williams, then fanned Gallo to end it. Gallo had belted his league-leading 32nd homer in the first inning, but that was his only hit.
The Hoppers pecked away at the deficit, scoring single runs in the second, fifth and sixth innings. They added two in the seventh to tie the game 5-5, then put it away with four in the eighth. Colin Moran doubled in the go-ahead run and Solorzano added the clincher with a three-run homer, his 15th.
Matt Juengel had three hits, two runs and an RBI. Blake Barber added three hits and Solorzano, Moran and Cameron Flynn had two each. Austin Dean had two RBIs and Justin Bohn and Tony Caldwell added one apiece.
"When the hits start falling, you feed off each other and everybody starts hitting the ball hard," Juengel said.
His first full season has taken a toll on Juengel, but he's persevering.
"I can't explain how my body feels right now," he said. "It's really hard to get through the pre-game work, but once the game starts you get some extra energy and feel OK."