Tagged: alex caldera

“Heart Attack Hoppers” Do It Again (9/12/2011)

After tonight’s nail-biting win, one of my friends exclaimed “The ‘Heart Attack Hoppers’ do it again!” He was right on the money.

Tonight’s Greensboro Grasshoppers game against the Savannah Sand Gnats was the first game of the SAL Championship Series. It had it all. Home runs? Check. Balk? Check. Strategic substitutions? Check. Walk-off homer that was called foul? Check. Manager ejection? Check. Walk-off double two batters later? Check. With two outs, Marcell Ozuna was robbed of what would have been a 2-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth. Then he made it to base on a walk. Then the pitcher balked. Christian Yelich walked to load the bases. Two outs, bases loaded, Mark Canha hit a perfect double towards center field. Danny Black scores to tie and Marcell Ozuna scores to win. It was tense, the fans were upset at the umps. Everyone was cheering for the Hoppers, and when things were tight, the Hoppers did what the Hoppers do. They delivered. They kept the game exciting right to the very end. And they tried to give fans heart attacks while they were working their way to the win. I’ve been saying it a lot lately, but it’s true: it’s a good time to be a Hoppers fan.

Check out the official box score and game recap for all the details. Savannah has also posted a game story. Check out Bill on Baseball for a great post, too: Hoppers come to expect late-inning heroics, with quotes from several of the players and Andy.

Starting tonight for the Hoppers was Kyle Winters. As regular readers of this blog know, he’s my favorite Hoppers pitcher. That’s why I especially hate to say that he had a rough night tonight. It wasn’t bad, but it was poised to turn bad at any moment. I was nervous from the beginning, when the Sand Gnats managed to load the bases with only one out on the board. Fortunately, a popup to third and a fly to right ended the inning. In the second inning, Winters game up a double to the first batter he faced, who was subsequently driven in by a sacrifice fly. In the third inning, one of the Savannah batters hit a home run, as did a Sand Gnat in the fourth inning. After facing three batters in the fifth, Winters was pulled with runners on second and third. Taking the mound in his place was Alex Caldera. Caldera pitched 2.2 innings of no-hit, one walk baseball, picking up three Ks along the way. In the top of the 8th, Caldera was replaced by Grant Dayton, who pitched both the eighth and the ninth. Dayton gave up a home run to the first batter he faced, as well as two doubles. He also notched up three Ks and was the pitcher of record when the winning run scored, so he gets credited with the win. This was another great example of the Hoppers bullpen really performing solidly for the team.

Here’s what I thought was a cool picture of Ryan Fisher. I think he was swinging and missing in this shot.

Offensively, the Hoppers impressive from the beginning, then mostly lacking until the very end. Noah Perio started the first inning with a double to right field. On the first pitch he saw, Marcell Ozuna hit a home run, bringing the score 2-0, Hoppers. The Sand Gnats chipped away at that lead, scoring a run in each of the second, third, and fourth innings. The Hoppers tied the score at 3 in the fifth inning when Ryan Fisher hit a solo home run to right that left the park with such force that I think it sailed over the Mariott and all the way to Alamance County before landing. There were no more scoring plays until the Savannah home run in the eighth put them ahead 4-3. With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Aaron Dudley replaced Wilfredo Giminez as a pinch-hitter. Immediately, the Sand Gnats responded by replacing their pitcher to create what they believed would be a better pitcher-hitter matchup. Their new pitcher walked Dudley, who was then replaced by Joe Bonadonna as a pinch runner on first. At this point, the bases were loaded and the Hoppers were poised to take advantage of the situation when Ryan Fisher came to bat, but he ended the inning by striking out. The ninth was the crucial inning for the Hoppers. The Sand Gnats got a runner as far as second, but did not score. The bottom of the ninth kept everyone on the edge of their seats. Isaac Galloway reached first on a walk, but was put out on a fielder’s choice when Danny Black bunted. Noah Perio struck out. With two outs on the board, Marcell Ozuna hit a home run to left field that was just fair of the foul pole, but the umpire ruled it foul. This caused Andy Haines to engage in impassioned debate with the umpire about the call, eventually getting ejected. As he left the field, he got Marcell’s attention and yelled at him to do it again. Instead of doing it again, Marcell walked. With runners on first and second and Christian Yelich at the plate, the pitcher balked. With first base now open but runners on the other bags, the pitcher walked (probably intentionally, but they were playing it close) Yelich. With the bases loaded and Mark Canha stepping up to the plate, the Sand Gnats made one final pitching change. It turned out to be a mistake, because Canha hit a solid double to center field. Black scored to tie. Ozuna scored to win. The Hoppers dugout exploded for the second time (it also emptied when Ozuna hit the ball that was called foul).

Here’s what Ozuna looked like hitting the home run he was robbed of:

Cahna got an ice water shower. Then he got a shaving cream pie in the face. The fans loved it. The team loved it.

This puts Greensboro in a great advantage going into the rest of the series. This series is best of five, and it’s great for the Hoppers to already have a one game lead. The next game will be played tomorrow night in Greensboro. Then, the teams go to Savannah to play on Thursday, and if necessary, Friday and Saturday. Personally, I’m hoping for a sweep. It’s been a long time since Greensboro has brought home the SAL title. This might be the year for it to happen.

Here’s how I had the game. Full of excitement, especially at the end..

Remember, you can click on any of the pictures in the post to embiggen them. Check out the photo album on Facebook for all the pictures. Join the conversation by leaving a comment — what are you thinking?

See ya at the ballpark!
Email: hoppersfan@gmail.com
Twitter: @HoppersFan
Facebook: www.facebook.com/HoppersFan

Hoppers Intimidate Intimidators (9/4/2011)

Today’s Greensboro Grasshoppers game against the Kannapolis Intimidators resulted in a Hoppers win (5-3), largely due to home runs by Mark Canha and Isaac Galloway. This also puts the Hoppers just a little closer to a playoff spot, or keeps them just a little farther out of being eliminated, depending on how you want to look at it. Since Hickory lost to Greenville tonight, that final playoff spot is still up for grabs between Greensboro and Kannapolis. The good news is that there are more scenarios that have Greensboro capturing the spot than there are having Kannapolis capturing it. The bad news is that it’s by no means a given that the Hoppers will take it.

Let’s see if I can boil down the scenarios correctly. Hickory is going to the playoffs since they won the first half of the season. They are also currently leading the second half of the season (by a measly half game over Kannapolis), so if they end up winning the second half, Greensboro will progress due to winning the wildcard race. Hickory needs to win tomorrow in order to win the 2nd half. If Hickory does not win tomorrow, either Greensboro or Kannapolis will win the second half, and that will be decided by whoever wins the Hoppers-Intimidators game tomorrow. Short version: Greensboro advances if either Greensboro or Hickory wins tomorrow night, Kannapolis advances if both Kannapolis wins and Hickory loses. Also, there’s a bunch of rain scheduled to start coming tomorrow. Who knows what that will do as far as games getting played, and what the baseball math will be as a result of that. I’m not even going to think about that (but I think if everything gets rained out, the Hoppers are going to the playoffs).

Obviously, the easiest way to keep from being confused is for Greensboro to go back to Kannapolis tomorrow, play a solid game, and secure a win. They can do that. They’ve already done that in three of the four games this series. It won’t be easy — Kannapolis is a great team, and I’m sure they’re going to take the field tomorrow determined to win. The good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise (literally), I’ll be down in Kannapolis again tomorrow to cheer the Hoppers on. If you can go down to help, you should — there has been a decent showing of Hoppers fans at all of the games so far, and I think the team appreciates the support.

So how did today’s game go down? For the most part, nicely. Starting for Greensboro was Alex Caldera. For Kannapolis, Matthew Heldenreich. Danny Black scored the first Hoppers run in the second inning, having reached base on a ground-rule double. He was subsequently batted in on a single by James Wooster. There were no more scoring plays on either side until the sixth inning, when the Hoppers put another two on the board. Mark Canha hit a two-run homer, driving in Marcell Ozuna, who had previously reached on a single. In the bottom of the sixth, Kannapolis left fielder Collin Kuhn scored after having reached on a double. Caldera was pitching a shutout to that point, and as soon as Kuhn scored, he was replaced by Brett Zawacki, who pitched the rest of the sixth and the complete seventh. In the top of the seventh, Isaac Galloway hit a two-run homer, bringing JT Realmuto in with him, who had reached on a single. After Galloway’s homer, Jake Wilson replaced Heldenreich on the mound and pitched the rest of the game for Kannapolis. In the bottom of the seventh, Kannapolis responded with two runs of their own: Ross Wilson and Marcus Semien. Grant Dayton replaced Zawacki for the Hoppers in the eighth and ninth, but no other runs were scored by either team.

Here’s a picture of JT Realmuto congratulating Isaac Galloway after Galloway’s homer:

JT Realmuto Congratulates Isaac Galloway

Here’s a shot of Marcell Ozuna about to hit into a fly out to left. If you look close (you might need to click on the picture to see the big version), you can see the ball whizzing towards Ozuna. It’s right at Andy’s chest.

Marcell Ozuna About To Fly Out

Without the telephoto lens I borrowed yesterday, it was harder to get good pictures of the pitching, but here’s a picture of Alex Caldera throwing it to the plate:

Alex Caldera Pitching

It was an exciting, enjoyable ballgame. Even more so with the right team ending up victorious.

Visiting Kannapolis for Hoppers games is a real treat. As I already mentioned, there were a good deal of familiar faces with other Hoppers fans who came to support the team. The ballpark is generally more quiet than the Greensboro park, and almost everyone at the game seemed to be into the game. The Kannapolis staff is very friendly, even knowing that I’m pulling for their opponents. Today was even more of a treat because Kannapolis is celebrating “Fan Appreciation Weekend,” and as part of that celebration, most of the team was out signing autographs before the game. As a result, I got eleven autographs in the Kannapolis team set:

Kannapolis Autographs

In addition to all the Intimidators autographs, I found Kyle Winters (thanks for pointing him out to me, Pete!) and got him to autograph a couple of 8.5×11 printouts of photos I took from yesterday’s game, where he got the win. I tried not to bother him too much on his “day off” in the stands, but I told him he looked great out there and he said he felt great, too. I’m psyched to add these photos to the small baseball museum I am establishing in an empty cube at my office. I’m definitely looking forward to watching Kyle’s career once he leaves the Hoppers.

Two things made scoring the game easier at Kannapolis than it is at Greensboro: 1) after every inning, the announcer recaps the runs/hits/errors/lob stats for the inning, and 2) between innings, there is still a scoreboard with the game statistics visible. Here’s how I had the game:

9/4/2011 Scorecard: Kannapolis (3) v Greensboro (5)

It’s an exciting time to be a Hoppers fan. I think this is the closest we’ve come to a playoff spot since we’ve been in the new stadium. Tomorrow’s going to be a tense day, watching the Hoppers play hard against Kannapolis and watching the scoreboard for the Hickory game. I just hope that when the sun goes down, the Hoppers are going to the playoffs.

Remember, you can click on any of the pictures in the post to embiggen them. Check out the photo album on Facebook for all the pictures. Join the conversation by leaving a comment — what are you thinking?

See ya at the ballpark!
Email: hoppersfan@gmail.com
Twitter: @HoppersFan
Facebook: www.facebook.com/HoppersFan

Almost An Amazing Comeback (8/23/2011)

Yesterday’s Greensboro Grasshoppers game against the West Virginia Power was tense. At one point, the Hoppers were down 0-7. Then, in the sixth and seventh, they rallied to tie the score 7-7. I started getting my scoresheet ready for extra innings, because I thought it was going to go that far. The eighth was scoreless. Then, in the ninth, the Power got a 3 run homer, taking the score to 7-10. The Hoppers managed to get two runs on the board in the ninth, but it wasn’t enough, and they lost 9-10.

Why did they lose? Errors. Greensboro had 3 errors (West Virginia had 2), and several of those errors allowed runs to score. The errors were killing me and most of the fans had given up on the team. But baseball doesn’t work that way. Things looked like they were going to turn around. It made for an exciting end of the game, just not the result we would have liked.

Check out the official box score and game recap for the details.

Since I’m behind on my blogging, I’m going to keep this one short and try to write an entry about tonight’s game before I go to bed. In the mean time, check out the latest Bill on Baseball post: Another number comes into play. Bill describes the elimination number and how it figures into the final push at the end of the season. In the comments, I ask how Hurricane Irene might also factor into the final games and Bill flushes out a few scenarios.

Finally, here are a few pictures from the game. First, Alex Caldera pitching:

Alex Caldera Pitching

Now, how about Danny Black backing off from a little chin music:

Danny Black Chin Music

Finally, here’s how I had the game scored. Check out the bottoms of the sixth and seventh to see the phenomenal rally that the Hoppers put up, and the ninth to see how it just wasn’t quite good enough:

8/23/2011 Scorecard: Greensboro (9) v West Virginia (10)

Remember, you can click on any of the pictures in the post to embiggen them. Check out the photo album on Facebook for all the pictures. Join the conversation by leaving a comment — what are you thinking?

See ya at the ballpark!
Email: hoppersfan@gmail.com
Twitter: @HoppersFan
Facebook: www.facebook.com/HoppersFan

Hoppers Hit Two Homers For The Win (8/12/2011)

Standings as of 8/13/2011

Last night’s Greensboro Grasshoppers game against the Lakewood Blueclaws was another great success. Although the Blueclaws outhit the Hoppers 6-3, two of those Hoppers hits were solo homers, and the only runs of the game. Final score: 2-0 Hoppers. Check out the official box score and game recap for the official details. We’re still five and a half games out of first, but these wins against Lakewood have closed the gap some. That graphic to the right came from the official Hoppers website and shows exactly what the Hoppers need to overcome in order to get on top. A win against Lakewood tonight (if there’s a game, it’s currently raining pretty steadily) will bring us even with Lakewood, and one step closer to the top.

The day started out pretty slow. I got to BP about the same time my friend Jonathan did, and we noticed that the wind was blowing into the park. We figured that would keep most of the balls inside. A couple of minutes later, Kenyon and Josh joined us and the three of them headed across the street for a game of catch while I watched BP from the fence. Our theory about it being a slow day for BP balls turned out to be right, as only three left the park. We gave two away to a couple of kids who had come to watch through the fence, too, standing on their bikes in order to see over the outfield wall. They were very appreciative and seemed thrilled to be able to go home with a souvenir. Another reason it was a light day for BP balls is that the Blueclaws didn’t even take BP. The Hoppers started later than usual, and I guess there simply wasn’t enough time for Lakewood to have a turn. Or maybe that was the plan from the beginning. With BP over and a few minutes before the gates were going to be open, we all just kinda wandered around doing our own thing.

Shortly before the gates opened up, the sky opened up and it started raining. Hard. Most everyone took shelter under the concourse on Bellemeade street. When the gates opened, it was still raining, and the tarp was on the field:

Raining Hard, Tarp On The Field

There was plenty of room to stay dry inside the park and everyone seemed to know that the storm would pass quickly enough and we’d get a game on. In the mean time, pitcher Miguel Mejia was at the autograph table signing autographs. I got his signature on a ball:

Miguel Mejia Autograph

Sure enough, the rain soon ended, the tarp was removed, and the field became playable. The game started after about an hour delay, and moved very quickly — total time was 2:11. For the Hoppers, Alex Caldera made the start (and got the win). He pitched 7 innings, gave up 5 hits, and issued 1 walk. He was replaced by Grant Dayton in the 8th, who pitched 2 innings, gave up 1 hit, didn’t issue any walks, and picked up the save. The word of the day for pitching was “strikeout,” as Caldera recorded 9 and Dayton recorded 3. They were about to run out of places in the K-Zone to hang the Ks. Offensively, the Hoppers didn’t look spectacular, but they certainly got the job done. The only Hoppers hits came from Marcell Oznua (who homered in the first), Danny Black (who singled in the fifth), and Jacob Realmuto (who homered in the seventh). If 2/3 of the hits are going to be homers, I’m not going to complain.

Bill Hass has written a great blog entry about Caldera’s start, describing the history of how Caldera came to be pitching for the Hoppers and including some quotes from both Caldera and manager Andy Haines about the seven-inning shutout performance. Be sure to check it out: Caldera makes most of fresh start.

It was a great game, and like I said in my last entry, it’s a great time to be a Hoppers fan.

I took more pictures, but neglected to dump them from the camera before my wife took the camera to a youth retreat this weekend. So the pictures I do have are from my phone. Oops. Poor planning on my part. I should have the rest of the pictures Monday.

Here’s how I had the game. With the threat of rain being what it was, I almost didn’t score it. But it turned out to be a great night for a ballgame and a great night to score it.

8/12/2011 Scorecard: Grasshoppers (2) v Blueclaws (0)

Tonight is the last of the season ticket holder Saturday events where they let us into the park an hour early. We’ll see how that works out with the steady rain we’ve been getting so far this morning. It’s still 9 hours until game time, so it can definitely get dry by then.

Remember, you can click on any of the pictures in the post to embiggen them. Check out the photo album on Facebook for all the pictures. Join the conversation by leaving a comment — what are you thinking?

See ya at the ballpark!
Email: hoppersfan@gmail.com
Twitter: @HoppersFan
Facebook: www.facebook.com/HoppersFan