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Sammy Siani's single sends Hoppers to 6-5 win

Siani's bases-loaded hit in the eighth inning drives in the go-ahead run
Greensboro outfielder Sammy Siani. (Derrick Brady/bcookmedia)
May 22, 2022

GREENSBORO ― Sammy Siani chopped a single through the drawn-in infield with the bases loaded in the eighth inning, breaking a tie score and lifting the Greensboro Grasshoppers to a 6-5 victory over the Bowling Green Hot Rods at First National Bank Field on Saturday night. Siani went 2-for-4 with

GREENSBORO ― Sammy Siani chopped a single through the drawn-in infield with the bases loaded in the eighth inning, breaking a tie score and lifting the Greensboro Grasshoppers to a 6-5 victory over the Bowling Green Hot Rods at First National Bank Field on Saturday night.

Siani went 2-for-4 with a double and his go-ahead single, and teammates Dariel Lopez and Maikol Escotto hit long home runs for the Hoppers (16-21), who rebounded from back-to-back losses to the first-place Hot Rods (23-14).

Greensboro has now won five of its last six one-run games.

"Any time you win a close game, it gives you confidence," Hoppers manager Callix Crabbe said. "It lets you know that, look, if we take care of the small things, then we have a chance. I told the guys before the game, 'Winning baseball isn't as complicated as you think it is; it's taking care of the details. It's making a pitch or making a play when the game is asking you to. It looks like having a long at-bat and passing the baton to the hitter behind you. Or pitching with everything in your arsenal, and then handing the ball to the next guy for him to give (hitters) a different look.' It's not as complex as people make it out to be."

Maybe so. And yet with baseball, there's the game within the game.

Take the eighth inning for example. The Hot Rods had just tied the game 5-5 on Kyle Manzanardo's towering home run, and Greensboro came to bat against reliever Matthew Peguero (2-3).

With one out, Jacob Gonzalez was hit by a pitch, and Abrahan Gutierrez followed with a ground ball single between the shortstop and third baseman. That brought up Lopez ― who earlier in the game hit a 420-foot homer over the Eanes Heating & Air sign on the center-field fence.

Lopez walked to load the bases for Siani, who delivered the hit that drove in the go-ahead run.

"I loved the matchup with Sammy and the bases loaded," Crabbe said. "But the key at-bat was Lopez. I gave him the 3-0 take sign, and it's a strike. Then he took a really tough 3-1 pitch for a strike before drawing the walk on 3-2. Kudos to Lopez, because a week ago he swings at that 3-1 pitch because he wants to get a hit. But playing winning baseball means trusting the person behind you, and that's a hard thing to do when you're 20 years old and you want to put up your numbers. Reality is the game rewards when you sacrifice your own individual success for the greater good.

"That was the moment. Because now, their pitcher can't throw his really good slider with the runner at third base. If that runner is still at second base, (Peguero) doesn't have to worry about throwing that slider in the dirt and having it get away from his catcher."

Lopez's walk also meant the infield defense had to play a few steps closer to home, so a potential play could be made at the plate on a ground ball. That takes a step away from each infielder's lateral range, and gives the hitter larger holes.

And Siani slapped his single through one of those holes, just out of reach of the second baseman.

That one sequence in the eighth inning underscored a strong overall night for the Hoppers.

Pitchers Nick Dombkowski, winner Domingo Gonzalez (2-2) and closer Tyler Samaniego combined to walk one and strike out 12 in an effective night.

Jacob Gonzalez and Endy Rodriguez hit RBI singles, and Escotto hit a 447-foot, two-run shot into the batter's eye in center field for his sixth homer of the season.

Escotto is batting just .191 so far, but 10 of his 21 hits have gone for extra bases.

"Escotto is a 19-year-old playing High-A baseball," Crabbe said. "He's got limited experience just playing baseball games. So he has a limited database of pitches that he's seen in his life. So with him, it's not poor at-bats, but it's inconsistent at-bats with chasing the pitch up in the zone. We've been working with taking out the slack, getting him in a better position to hit sooner. When he's in a stable hitting position, you see that wiry-type power he has. He's got six homers, and he's not a big dude. But all of his homers are impressive."

And on this cloudy night, the Hoppers were impressive, too.


  • Greensboro improved to 6-6 in one-run games this season, and the Hoppers have won five of their last six one-run games.
  • Hoppers left-hander Tyler Samaniego (1-1, 3 saves) made his 13th appearance of the season, working the ninth inning and lowering his ERA to 0.59. He has struck out 22 in 15 1/3 innings and held opponents to an .058 batting average. ... "Samaniego has been really good all year long," Crabbe says. "He's a slow-heartbeat guy. His fastball has life all the way to the catcher's mask, right through home plate. He's committed to throwing it. And what's cool with Samaniego, he adds and subtracts on his fastball. You'll see 91-92 mph, and then he'll reach back for a little extra and get to 96-97. That's a tough thing for the hitter. You get timing on the fastball and then ― pow! ― he gives you something more. And he's got that good slider, too."
  • Sammy Siani, a 21-year-old outfielder, has a five-game hitting streak and is 7-for-19 (.368) with two doubles, a home run and two RBIs during that stretch. Siani was the 37th overall pick in the 2019 draft, a high school player selected between the first and second rounds.
  • Center fielder Matt Gorski went 0-for-4. The 24-year-old has still hit safely in nine of his last 11 games, and he has been on base in 32 of 36 games played. Gorski leads the South Atlantic league in RBIs (33), slugging percentage (.680) and OPS (1.046), and he's second in home runs (14) and runs scored (31).
  • First baseman Jacob Gonzalez, the reigning South Atlantic League player of the week, has hit safely in nine of 10 games since his promotion to Greensboro, going 18-for-38 (.474) with four home runs and 10 RBIs. ... Gonzalez, the 23-year-old son of former big-league All-Star Luis Gonzalez, batted .393 with 11 doubles, four home runs and 16 RBIs in 24 games for the Bradenton Marauders before his promotion to Greensboro.

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.