It hasn't been the greatest of seasons at home for the Grasshoppers, but they wrapped things up on a good note Thursday night.
They beat Hickory 4-3, before a crowd of 8,220, to complete a three-game sweep of the Crawdads. That meant they ended the second half with a winning record, 18-17, in NewBridge Bank Park. Overall, they were 33-38 at home.
"That was a nice sweep over a very good team," said manager Jorge Hernandez. "We played well the whole series. We were good defensively, we pitched well and the bullpen was outstanding. I'm proud of the way this team is playing right now."
Although they will finish with a losing record, the Hoppers have some momentum going into Lakewood, where they will wrap up the season with four games. They have won four straight and seven of their last nine.
In his final start of the year, Dejai Oliver pitched seven innings, allowing three runs, seven hits, walking none and striking out 12. Sean Donatello pitched a scoreless eighth and Ronald Barnes got his second save in as many nights. After recording 15 strikeouts Wednesday night, Hoppers pitchers added 15 more Thursday.
"That was a decent way to end it," Oliver said. "I'll have some momentum to take with me into spring training."
Oliver won four of his last five decisions to finish with a 6-4 record. He was a relief pitcher with the Hoppers last season but converted to starter this year.
"Starting is more comfortable for me," he said. "That's what I did in college. The bullpen just didn't feel right."
Barnes lowered his ERA to 0.95 with six saves in 13 games since he joined the Hoppers from Jupiter.
"I don't know what the Marlins have planned for me," he said of next season, "but I'll do whatever they ask. I like closing, though. It's a lot of fun."
The Hoppers' offense gave a possible preview of 2014. Avery Romero hit a three-run homer to give them a 3-2 lead in the fifth inning. Austin Dean hit a solo homer in the sixth for the go-ahead run. Both players were promoted a week ago from Batavia.
"The Batavia Connection," Hernandez said. "It was good to see them contribute."
Both players were drafted out of high school last summer - Romero in the third round and Dean in the fourth - and could be ticketed to begin 2014 with the Hoppers.
Romero hit .297 with two homers and 30 RBIs with the MuckDogs and Dean hit .268 with two homers and 19 RBIs. Both played in 56 games.
Romero's home run, his first hit in NewBridge, came with two outs and Justin Bohn and Cameron Flynn on base. He turned on a pitch from Jose Monegro and drilled it over the left field fence.
"I was just excited to get the chance to come here," said Rome0r, who plays second base. "I have no idea where they will send me next yer, but this would be a good place to play.
"(The home run) felt good off the bat. I got a good pitch and I'm glad it went out."
Dean, an outfielder, jumped on a pitch from Santo Perez and lined it onto the bank in left.
"The pitching is better here," he said of his move up, "but that doesn't faze me. I just took a normal swing on an inside pitch. It felt good and it got out fast."