Bill on Baseball: Hoppers Let One Slip Through Fingers

By Bill Hass / Greensboro Grasshoppers | July 6, 2019 8:36 AM

A celebratory day turned into something more akin to "no joy in Mudville" Thursday night, at least in the Hoppers' dugout.

A celebratory day turned into something more akin to "no joy in Mudville" Thursday night, at least in the Hoppers' dugout.

On the verge of finally putting away the Lakewood BlueClaws, the Hoppers let one slip through their fingers, ultimately losing 11-10.

It was a bitter ending for the team in front of the largest crowd of the season, 8,717 at First National Bank Field. At least the fans went home happy after watching the spectacular fireworks show that followed.

If this one leaves a scar, it could be indicated by how the Hoppers respond in the next three games of the series. That starts with Friday's game at 7 p.m.

"We'll move on," manager Miguel Perez said. "We'll come back, practice, have fun and do it again."

By "do it again," he meant play another ball game, not give up a lead twice.

There were plenty of things the Hoppers did right, jumping on top 5-0 and leading 6-2 after five innings behind starter Alex Manasa. But there was a meltdown in the sixth inning when reliever Allen Montgomery gave up three hits and three walks in two-thirds of an inning and all six runners scored to flip the game to an 8-6 Lakewood lead.

The Hoppers came back to reclaim the momentum, aided by two of the five BlueClaws errors of the game, by scoring four times in the bottom of the eighth to go back in front 10-8.

Coby Smith came in for the save in the ninth inning and retired the first two batters - except the second one, Carlos De La Cruz, reached base when the third strike got by catcher Zac Susi. That gave Lakewood an extra out to work with.

Smith struck out Cole Stobbe for the second out, but it should have been the third. Then Hunter Stovall lifted a foul popup that should have been a routine play to end the game, but instead bounced off Susi's glove for an error to keep the game alive.

Smith then walked Stovall and served up a three-run homer to Melvin Matos that pushed the BlueClaws on top 11-10. This time there was no answer by the Hoppers.

Perez, a catcher himself in his playing days, said he had known "one of those nights" that Susi endured.

"I didn't say anything to him (after the game)," Perez said. "We'll have a conversation about him getting more opportunities and he'll be fine. He takes pride about what he does behind the plate.

"You can't practice a popup to the catcher in front of 9,000 people. With the excitement and the environment, it made everyone want to try harder."

NOTES: Jonah Davis hit his fourth homer of the season and Susi hit his first, which was also the first of his career … Kyle Mottice had a pair of doubles, two RBIs and scored three runs … Four Hoppers pitchers combined for 16 strikeouts but were also tagged for four home runs … Manasa recorded seven strikeouts in five innings and reliever Yerry De Los Santos had five in 2 1/3 innings of relief … The Hoppers are 6-7 all-time in home games on July 4.

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

View More