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Hoppers' loss sets up winner-take-all Game 5

Matt Gorski and Will Matthiessen homer for Greensboro, but Hoppers strand 13 baserunners in Game 4
Greensboro center fielder Matt Gorski went 2-for-5 with an early solo home run and an infield single in the ninth inning in the Hoppers' 7-5 loss in Game 4 of the High-A East Championship series. (Jak Kerley/Greensboro Grasshoppers)
September 28, 2021

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. ― And now it's winner take all. With five months and 124 games in the books, the Greensboro Grasshoppers' entire season comes down to one last game 10 hours from home in the Central time zone. Bowling Green left-hander Michael Constanzo struck out Andres Alvarez with two

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. ― And now it's winner take all.

With five months and 124 games in the books, the Greensboro Grasshoppers' entire season comes down to one last game 10 hours from home in the Central time zone.

Bowling Green left-hander Michael Constanzo struck out Andres Alvarez with two runners on base in the top of the ninth inning, and the top-seeded Hot Rods held on to defeat the Grasshoppers 7-5 in Game 4 of the High-A East Championship series Monday night.

That tied the best-of-five series and sets up a decisive Game 5 at 7:30 p.m. EST Tuesday at Bowling Green Ballpark.

Will Matthiessen and Matt Gorski both went 2-for-5 with solo home runs to lead the Hoppers, and both men were part of the ninth-inning rally that fell short.

With the Hoppers trailing 7-4, Lolo Sanchez led off the ninth and drew his second walk of the game. Matthiessen followed with a single, and Bowling Green left fielder Hill Alexander let the ball get away. Sanchez scored on the error, and Matthiessen took second base. After Blake Sabol flied out, Gorski beat out an infield single to put the potential tying run on base.

Bowling Green made a pitching change, with Constanzo coming on to face lefty slugger Aaron Shackelford. Constanzo retired Shackelford on a pop-up behind the plate, then struck out Alvarez to end the game and pick up the save.

Relief pitcher Garrett Leonard retired all six batters he faced in Game 4, striking out five. Jak Kerley/Greensboro Grasshoppers

Lead-off hitter Liover Peguero and High-A East hits leader Jared Triolo both went 2-for-5 for the Hoppers, who finished with 11 hits and six walks but stranded 13 baserunners. Greensboro was just 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

Peguero hit an RBI single and Sanchez drew a bases-loaded walk in the sixth inning when Greensboro tied the game 4-4.

But Bowling Green roughed up reliever Steven Jennings in the bottom of the sixth and scored three runs to break the tie. Jennings came on in relief of Domingo Gonzalez, faced just four batters, and three of them got hits.

Gonzalez took the tough-luck loss. He allowed one run in three innings striking out five.

Carmen Mlodzinski, a pitcher ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Pirates' No. 10 prospect, started the game. But Mlodzinski, who came off the injured list last week, worked on a limited pitch-count and gave up four runs in 2 2/3 innings before giving way to Gonzalez.

Garrett Leonard closed the game for Greensboro, retiring all six batters he faced and striking out five.

Notes

  • Bowling Green is now 9-7 in head-to-head games against Greensboro this season. The teams are 4-4 in games played at the Hot Rods' ballpark.
  • Highly-touted Curtis Mead and Alika Williams both went 3-for-4 for Bowling Green. Mead, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 14 prospect in Tampa Bay's farm system, had a triple and an RBI. Williams, the Rays' No. 25 prospect, doubled twice and drove in a run.
  • Hard-throwing Angel Felipe, whose fastball touched 100 mph in Game 1, struck out four in 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief. He's been the winning pitcher in both of Bowling Green's victories in this series.
  • This is the 10th anniversary of the Grasshoppers only league championship, and the similarities are eerie. The 2011 Hoppers beat the top-seeded Savannah Sand Gnats in the best-of-five South Atlantic League Championship series, splitting the first two games at home in Greensboro and then winning two on the road. That series also went to a winner-take-all Game 5, but only after the Hoppers rallied late to tie Game 4 and win in extra innings.

In his career at the News & Record, journalist Jeff Mills won 10 national and 12 state writing awards from the Associated Press Sports Editors, the Society for Features Journalism, and the N.C. Press Association.