Hickory, NC - A Hickory Crawdads offense that had crushed the Greensboro Grasshoppers for 22 total runs while winning the last two games was held in check Sunday night, as 'Hoppers starting pitcher Ryan Newell threw 8.1 dominant innings in a 3-0 'Dads loss at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The 22-year-old Newell (2-2) became the first starting pitcher in the South Atlantic League this season to record an out in the 9th inning, as the 2012 7th round selection shut the Crawdads out on four hits, one walk, and eight strikeouts for his second win of the season.
Overshadowed in the pitching dominant game was 'Dads starter Cole Wiper (2-2), who kept his team in the game with six stellar innings of his own. The 6'4" right-hander went a season-long six innings on the mound and allowed only an unearned run on two hits, two walks, and six strikeouts, but ended up taking the loss.
Wiper's biggest mistake didn't come on a pitch but on a throw to first, as the pitcher threw wide of first base on a sacrifice bunt by Greensboro shortstop Justin Bohn in the 2nd inning. The miscue allowed runners to move safely to second and third with only one out, which translated to the first run of the game one batter later when catcher Chad Wallach drove in Austin Dean from third base on an RBI groundout for a 1-0 Grasshoppers lead.
That score would stand all the way until the 7th, when Wallach came through again with a solo home run to left field to double the Crawdads deficit to 2-0. The 'Hoppers finished the scoring in the top of the 9th with another unearned run, this time it was a throwing error by Hickory catcher Kevin Torres that eventually allowed Greensboro to score again for their 3-0 advantage.
The 'Dads offense had several opportunities to score throughout the game, with the Crawdads tying the Grasshoppers at five hits apiece. The 1st inning saw Hickory third baseman Nick Vickerson walk with one out, followed two batters later by a double to right by DH Nomar Mazara. Vickerson tried to score all the way from first on the play, but was tagged out at home by Wallach to keep the 'Dads off the board.
The Crawdads threatened again in both the 5th and 7th frames when they moved runners to second with only one away, but both times Newell and the Grasshoppers were able to wiggle out of the jam. The 'Dads attempted one last rally in the 9th when Vickerson doubled with one out to finally chase Newell from the game. Ronald Guzman then greeted Greensboro reliever Sean Donatello with a single to put runners at the corners with one out, but Donatello bounced back to retire Mazara and Torres to end the game and earn his second save.
Mazara ended the night 2-4 with two doubles, while Vickerson went 1-3 with a double and a walk.
With the loss the Crawdads (11-12) and Grasshopppers (12-11) split their 4-game series at two games apiece. The 'Dads will be off on Monday as they travel to Hagerstown to start a 3-game series with the first place Suns. First pitch on Tuesday is scheduled for 7:05 pm.