Tagged: kyle winters

“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 Win Division Series, On To Championship

Oh my goodness, the time slipped away from my completely before I was able to write a good review of Friday’s Greensboro Grasshoppers game against the Hickory Crawdads. Short version: the Hoppers won, giving them the Division Title and moving them to the League Championship series against the Savannah Sand Gnats. That series begins tonight in Greensboro.  Game two will be played in Greensboro tomorrow night. Games three, and if necessary, four and five, will be played in Savannah.

The game Friday really was a very enjoyable game to watch, especially since the Hoppers established the lead early and didn’t give it up. Check out Bill on Baseball: Hoppers reaching for the ring for some great quotes from JT Realmuto and Kyle Winters about the Division win and the upcoming Championship series.

And let me leave you with a few pictures from Friday’s game. This first one is of a fan named Beth holding what was the most popular sign for all the Hoppers fans — and team members — at the game:

Here’s Marcell Ozuna swinging. He ended up going 0-5.

Here’s a view of the Hoppers players watching the action on the field while Hickory was pitching.

Here’s the end of the game celebration, as the Hoppers bench empties and they all run on the field to congratulate each other on the win.

Finally, here’s how I had the game scored.

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

Hoppers Split Doubleheader Against Intimidators (8/3/2011)

Today the Greensboro Grasshoppers split a doubleheader against the Kannapolis Intimidators. We’re getting closer to a playoff spot, but we’re not yet close enough. Bill on Baseball has a great recap explaining where we are and what we need to do: Hopper lead one race, trail another. In short, If we win the final two games of the season, we’re in. If we only win one of them, we’re in via wild card as long as Hickory stays on top.

I borrowed a telephoto lens from my friends Chris and Stacy for the game, and it’s addictive. I ended up taking over 300 high-quality pictures, and it is taking hours to get them downloaded from my camera to the computer. Since it’s 1:20AM as I write this and I need to play guitar at church tomorrow, I’m going to keep this short. Here’s one of my favorite pictures from the first game. It’s Kyle Winters warming up. Kyle was credited with the win for the first game.

Kyle Winters Warming Up

Here’s another picture that I think came out well. It’s Mark Canha on deck.

Mark Canha On Deck

I’ve got loads more pictures. Once I sort them out and throw away the ones that just came out bad, I’ll post more.

There was a good showing of Greensboro fans at the game. I’m going back for tomorrow’s game. The announcer said there will be a team autograph session before the game, so I hope to get most of my Kannapolis cards signed.

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

Is This A Fairy Tale? (8/30/2011)

The Greensboro Grasshoppers trounced the Delmarva Shorebirds tonight with an impressive 10-7 come-from-behind victory. It has me wondering if this is a fairy tale. With this win, it’s a sweep of the Shorebirds. With this win, it puts the Hoppers only 3 games out of first place for the 2nd half. With this win, the Hoppers have a legitimate — but still difficult — chance at the playoffs. It may be a fairy tale in the making.

The Hoppers started out well, scoring the first run of the game in the 2nd inning. And then the third inning came and everything fell apart. Delmarva scored seven runs, putting the Hoppers six runs behind. Fortunately, those were the only runs Delmarva scored, and the Hoppers managed to score a run in the fifth, another run in the seventh, and six big runs in the eighth to pull the score to 10-7. It was a nail-biter of a game and there were several times I was concerned that the Hoppers wouldn’t make it. Like the time when they loaded the bases with only one out, and managed to strand all three base runners. But, in the end, a win is a win. And this win is exactly what the Hoppers needed to do to stay alive with a shot for the playoffs. Kannapolis also won against Rome tonight, so we didn’t gain any ground against them.

What does this all mean? It means that the final five games of the season are the games it will boil down to. What’s even more exciting is that those games are against Kanappolis. Every one we win, we are guaranteed to pick up a spot against them in the standings. I ran into Hoppers announcer Jim Scott in the score after the game and he said that the Hoppers need to win 3 out of 5 in order to make it happen. Kannapolis is a great team, so it’s going to be difficult to accomplish that — especially in Kannapolis — but it’s possible. If the Hoppers aren’t able to win the 2nd half outright, they still have a wild card chance if Hickory stays on the top of the standings. It’s going to be an interesting game of divisional standings chess between now and Labor day. Bill on Baseball has a great recap of tonight’s game and details about what needs to happen in various situations to allow the Hoppers to get in the playoffs: Hoppers’ scintillating run continues. Be sure to check it out, as well as the official box score and game recap.

The win was great, but what made this an extra special night for me is that I got to spend the evening with about 40 of my friends in the Party Deck on the third base side. A few weeks ago, I won a drawing sponsored by Sheetz where the prize was a free night on the Party Deck, including supper. It was AWESOME. Here’s a picture from the deck:

View From The Party Deck

The folks at the ballpark took real good care of us. We had an all-you-can-eat hot dog and bbq buffet. We had a great view of the ballpark. I even arranged with Pat Taylor, owner of Taylor Made Kettle Corn, to have enough kettle corn up in the seats for everyone to enjoy. I’ve always maintained that the kettle corn is the best deal in the ballpark, and I was excited to be able to share it with my friends tonight. I got upstairs, and there was a bag on every table, with a couple of extra bags on the buffet line. Several of the Hoppers staff, including Todd and Tim, also stopped by to check on things. Even Guilford stopped by:

Greg The Hoppers Fan And Guilford

As you can see, I was wearing the Kyle Winters jersey I won at the Tropical Jersey Night auction a few weeks ago.

At one point, my wife Meredith went down to the field to take some pictures because we knew some of the folks who were going to participate in one of the on-field promotions. Here’s a cool shot that she took of Mark Canha swinging hard. I don’t know if he connected on that particular swing or not, but it was his three run homer that put us in the lead in the eighth.

Mark Canha Swinging Hard

Since it was the last home game of the regular season, the Hoppers put on the best fireworks show of the year. Every explosion was really cool, and the show lasted a bit longer than usual. It was really neat to be able to watch the fireworks from the second level.

Fireworks
Fireworks

It was sad to leave the park when the game was over, but with the excitement the team has been building by maintaing such a long winning streak, I won’t be surprised if I find myself back in the park for a playoff game in a week or so. I’m planning to head down to Kannapolis for the entire series. If you’re planning on making it out to any of the games, leave a comment on the blog and let me know. We’ll definitely catch up with each other at the game.

It’s an exciting time to be a Hoppers fan.

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

Big Error In 9th Creates Walk-Off Win For Hoppers (8/22/2011)

The Greensboro Grasshoppers are back in town for a 9 day homestand: four games against the West Virginia Power and five games against the Delmarva Shorebirds. We pretty much need to sweep the entire homestand in order to set ourselves up for a playoff spot. We got off on the right foot tonight with a 4-3 win, that went all the way to the bottom of the ninth.

Starting for the Hoppers tonight was Kyle Winters, who pitched five innings, and was set up for the win with the Hoppers leading 2-1 at the bottom of the fifth, when he was relieved by James Leverton. Kyle ended up with no decision however, as the score became tied 3-3 in the top of the ninth. Leverton was replaced by Michael Brady, who came away with the win when he Hoppers scored in the bottom of the ninth on a big error by West Virginia.

Here’s how the bottom of the ninth went down. Batting out of the seven-hole, Danny Black singled on a nice hit to right field. J. T. Realmuto followed with a nice sacrifice bunt that pushed Danny to second. Isaac Galloway singled on a ground ball to first base, but the first baseman made a fielding error that allowed Danny to score from 2nd base. And that was the game. The Hoppers had pretty good command of the game, but when West Virginia scored those two runs to tie it in the ninth, it was starting to get tense. When the Hoppers got the win, everyone mobbed the field in celebration.

These are the results we need if we want a shot at post-season play.

Want to see Kyle Winters pitching? I thought so:

Kyle Winters Pitching

How about James Leverton? I thought so, too:

James Leverton Pitching

How about Player Of The Game Danny Black hitting a single? Yeah, I’ve got that for you:

Danny Black Hitting

Lots more pictures on the Facebook photo album. I actually managed to get some action shots of every Hoppers batting this time. So if you want to see any of them, be sure to check out the full album.

Before the game, Greg Nappo was signing autographs at the autograph table. I got his autograph on one of my baseballs:

Greg Nappo Autograph

And here’s how I had the game, without bothering to do the stats. Look how tense that ninth inning was:

8/22/2011 Scorecard: Hoppers (4) v Power (3)

That’s it for me. Tomorrow’s another day, another game. Let’s keep winning.

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 Deliver A Spanking To The GreenJackets (8/16/2011)

The Greensboro Grasshoppers beat the Augusta GreenJackets by such a wide margin (13-2) tonight that it’s almost embarrassing to talk about. Except for Danny Black, every Hoppers starting position player scored at least one run. Kyle Winters appeared to have an off night for his latest start after recently coming off the DL (he pitched three and two-thirds innings and didn’t get the win), but James Leverton’s relief pitching was good enough to easily carry throughout the rest of the game. Combined with both poor pitching and poor offense from the GreenJackets, the Hoppers came away from this game with an easy win. Check out the official box score and game recap for the details. There’s also a nice story from the GreenJackets perspective of the game: GreenJackets Held to Five Hits in 13-2 Setback. As of my writing this, Bill Hass hasn’t posted a story about tonight’s game on the Bill on Baseball blog, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that he’ll have some great insight from the players with their thoughts of how the game went down. Update: Bill’s blog entry about the game is up now: How to respond to a buzzing. He focuses on Perio’s two home runs, and includes thoughts from Perio about his performance.

I don’t have a whole lot in the way of pictures from this game, but here’s a shot of the latest GreenJackets pitcher to have the Hello Kitty backpack, Seth Rosin:

GreenJackets Pitcher Seth Rosin With The Hello Kitty Backpack

One of the autograph-seeking kids asked why he had a pink backpack and Seth’s response was it was because he gave up a homer (to Marcell Ozuna) in last night’s game. I wonder who will be wearing the backpack tomorrow. If they had enough backpacks, I’d make all four of tonight’s pitchers wear one.

Check out the Facebook photo album for the rest of the pictures I took tonight, including some pitching sequences of both Kyle Winters and James Leverton.

Offensively, the Hoppers looked great tonight. Like I mentioned earlier, everyone except Danny Black got to score: Noah Perio (x2), Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich (x2), Mark Canha (x2), Jacob Realmuto (x3), Wilfredo Giminez, Ryan Fisher, and Isaac Galloway. Four of those runs were homers — Noah Perio (x2), Mark Canha, and Jacob Realmuto. It was really impressive to watch Noah hit back-to-back homers in the third and fourth innings. I think they awarded him “Player Of The Game” for tonight based on his performance.

The Hoppers were aided in their win tonight by the fact that the GreenJackets just kind of fell apart. Going into the fourth inning, the game was tied 1-1. When Jacob Realmuto came to the plate as the second batter of the inning, the momentum dramatically shifted to the Hoppers’ favor. Realmuto reached base on an an error (charged to the first baseman) and ended up being the first of five runs scored that inning. I’m not even sure how many of those runs count as earned and how many count as unearned. But when that error occurred, I commented to a friend sitting next to me that it might turn out to be an extremely expensive error. I believe that it was. While the GreenJackets were able to score a second run in the sixth, they never really posed much of an offensive or defensive threat after committing that error. There were several times during the game when the Hoppers could have pressed for a greater advantage, but the unwritten rules of baseball kept them playing conservatively.

I’m glad to have the win in our column, but especially after the tense battle of yesterday’s game, it just doesn’t seem right to revel in tonight’s victory too much. We’ll see how tomorrow goes and if we can take the series or end up splitting it with the GreenJackets. This has been a really enjoyable series, and I’d love to see these two teams meet on the diamond again for the SAL championship title. Tonight’s win puts us four and a half games out of first — we gained a game since yesterday. So we’re inching our way up the ladder, staying in contention. If we keep this up, it’s going to go right down to the wire, and make for a very exciting end of the season.

Here’s how I had the game. Check out the impressive bottom of the fourth, and all the runs that were scored.

8/16/2011 Scorecard: Greensboro (13) v Augusta (2)

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