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Good Efforts Go for Naught for Hoppers
08/22/2016 9:27 AM ET

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Some good efforts wound up being wasted by the Hoppers Sunday afternoon.

Such as a four-hit game by Mason Davis.

And an excellent performance by starting pitcher Trevor Richards, who allowed four hits and one run over six innings.

Both of those were to no avail as Greensboro fell to Hickory 3-2 in a game that included a rain delay of an hour and 38 minutes. It was the Hoppers' fourth straight loss and their 11th defeat in their last 13 games. Five of the losses have been by one run in that stretch.

"It's driving me nuts a little bit," manager Kevin Randel admitted.

The outcome left the Hoppers 26-29 in the second half, six games behind Lakewood, which leads the Northern Division. Fifteen games remain in the regular season.

The Hoppers had their opportunities. They got 11 hits, but were just 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners. They got the first and second batters on base in each of the first three innings but scored just one run. The clutch hit continued to elude him.

"I love the pressure we put on them," Randel said, "but we're just one big hit away. I thought we had it today and the umpire over-ruled it."

His reference was to a third-inning at-bat by Stone Garrett. After Davis and Angel Reyes opened the inning with singles, Garrett drove a ball into the right-field corner that kicked into the field of play. Davis scored, Reyes wound up on third and Garrett was on second - except the ball was ruled foul by home plate umpire Matt Carlyon. After Carlyon consulted with base umpire Joe Schwartz, the call stood.

The runners returned to their original bases and Garrett went back to the plate, where he struck out. Aaron Blanton fouled out and Gio Alfonzo struck out, ending the inning.

It was a tough call. Some observers, including Hoppers pitching coach Brendan Sagara, insisted the ball hit the foul pole - which is a fair ball - and landed in play. Another said the base umpire had the best view and didn't change the call. First base coach Jose Ceballos said the coaching box doesn't have the best angle. Carlyon told Randel the ball grazed the padding in foul territory before it hit the pole.

"It was tough for me to see," Randel said. "I couldn't see exactly where it hit. It was a tough break either way."

What could have been a big inning - one run in for a 2-0 lead with runners on second and third and no outs - was short-circuited. Even then, other chances were wasted. The Hoppers scored a run on Blanton's RBI single in the first but left two runners in scoring position. They loaded the bases in the eighth and got a run when Casey Soltis walked, but that was all.

In the ninth, Davis ripped a one-out double into the gap for his fourth hit. Reyes lined a hard shot to first base that was caught by Tyler Sanchez, who then threw to shortstop Josh Altmann to double Davis off second base and bring the game to an abrupt end.

"I tried to freeze," said Davis, "but I strayed off the bag a little too far and the shortstop slipped in behind me (to cover second base). I probably should have taken a step back toward the base. Baseball is crazy like that sometimes."

Davis joined the team recently after missing the season with a stress fracture of his pelvis. He struggled in his first seven games, hitting .182, before breaking out Sunday.

"They did a good job of taking care of me and getting me healthy," he said of the trainers at the rehab facility in Jupiter. "I felt ready when I joined the team. But this isn't about me. It's about the team, and we have to keep pushing and keep fighting."

Richards threw shutout ball for five innings before allowing a run in the sixth that tied the game. He threw 69 pitches, 48 of them for strikes. His day was done before the rain delay and when the game resumed, Marcus Crescentini took over. He was touched for runs in the seventh and eighth, with Jeff Kinley relieving him in the eighth and limiting the damage to one run.

"That was as good an outing from a starter as we've had all year," Sagara said of Richards. "Kinley was really good and Crescentini battled but it just wasn't his day."

The series wraps up Monday night with a 7 o'clock game and Cody Poteet starting for the Hoppers.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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