The Hickory Crawdads pecked away at the Greensboro Grasshoppers for 14 hits in picking up an 11-4 win Tuesday night to start a three-game series.
The 11 runs tied a season high with all nine hitters picking up one hit, five of them with two. All but Luke Tendler scored a run, with Tendler chipping in an RBI.
Hickory improves to 53-34 overall (9-10 second half) and 29-15 at home, both the best marks in the SAL. Greensboro is now 34-54 overall, 5-14 in the second half, and 13-32 on the road- all three the worst in the circuit.
The Crawdads took advantage of a Grasshopper misplay in the field to score three in the first. After starter Ernesto Franco sandwiched walks to Jose Cardona and Josh Morgan around an out, Jose Cardona lofted a high popup to shallow left-center. Two outfielders and the ‘Hoppers shortstop converged, but the ball fell amongst the trio. SS Justin Twine eventually picked up the ball, but missed an opportunity to record a force play and left the bases loaded. Tendler’s sacrifice fly into the RF corner moved up all three runners before Jairo Beras got enough on a low fastball to get it through the infield for a two-run single.
Greensboro cut it to 3-2 in the third as Arturo Rodriguez singled with two outs and came around on K.J. Woods’ homer to right.
The game blew up on the Grasshoppers in the fourth when Hickory scored six times. Beras lead off the inning with a first-pitch homer to left. Hickory then put together a series of bloopers and soft liners for the remaining runs. Juremi Profar floated an opposite-field, soft liner to right followed by a bloop to left by Rock Shoulders. Brallan Perez then loaded the bases as he beat out a bunt up the third base line.
Cardona’s sacrifice fly sent in Profar before Carlos Arroyo’s blooper along the left field line fell in and scored Shoulders. A balk by Franco places runners at second and third from where both scored when Morgan steered a single through the drawn-in infield. A error in left by Austen Smith moved Morgan to second and he scored when Twine’s wild throw on a Trevino grounder skipped away from first to make it 9-2.
A passed ball brought in Mason Davis in the fifth, but the Crawdads responded with two more in bottom of the inning on run-scoring singles by Arroyo and Morgan.
Davis doubled and scored in the seventh to account for the final margin.
Nick Gardewine (5-6) was the recipient of the Crawdads offensive output in the win. He allowed three runs on six hits over a season-high of six innings with seven strikeouts and two walks. Ricardo Rodriguez allowed the remaining run before settling down over the final three scoreless innings.
The lineup: 7-for-12 with runners in scoring position, 4-for-4 plus two sac flies with runners at third. Hitting coach Francisco Matos credited the day off Monday with clearing everyone’s heads. He said the recent nine-day trip that ended Sunday felt like a month-long trip.
Carlos Arroyo: Went 2-for-5 in the game and also made a couple of key plays in the field. With two on in the second, Mason Davis hit a soft, sinking liner that Arroyo charged and caught just before the ball hit the dirt to close the innings.
With a runner on first in the fourth, Taylor Munden lofted a blooper into shallow right-center. Arroyo, who had moved to cover the bag on a steal attempt, reversed course. He was unable to make the catch, but Arroyo turned and fired a strike to Josh Morgan at second for the force play. The next batter Brian Schales also popped a blooper to short right. Arroyo cut back to his left, then after making the catch in front of right fielder Jairo Beras, he threw out Munden retreating to first for a double play.
Finally, the sixth, Twine sent a slow roller to second that Arroyo charged quickly, fielded at the cut of the grass and fired a quick throw to first.
Jairo Beras: Hit a tough 1-2 fastball (95 mph) down in the zone up the middle just past Twine’s glove. In the fourth, Beras smacked a first-pitch, get-it-over fastball out to left.
Josh Morgan: Two hits, a walk, two runs and three RBI. Saw 17 pitches in first three plate appearances, 25 for the game. In the fifth, he fought through a 7-pitch AB before getting enough on a change of the two-run single.
Luke Tendler: 1-4, 2B, RBI- He just missed a grand slam on a change in the first, then roped a slider into the RF corner for a double in the sixth
Jose Cardona: Sitting at the top of the order, he went 2-for-3, with a sac fly, scored twice and knocked in two. The lone out came on a liner to center in the seventh.
Nick Gardewine: Struggled at time to put away hitters on two-strike counts and at two outs in the inning, Gardewine still pushed through 98 pitches (63 strikes). He started with first-pitch strikes to 18 of 26 hitters. Pounded the strike zone low and away to right-handed hitters to good effect, first with fastballs (92-94), then brought in his slider on the second time through the lineup. Control of his change was iffy at times, and it cost him with Woods crushed a high offering to right for the homer.
Jose Trevino: Bloop single aside – and arguably could’ve had a second hit credited on the error charged to Twine in the fifth – he’s pulling a good many outside pitches and appeared to miss a couple of fastballs middle-in during a plate appearance in the sixth.
Greensboro: Arguably the poorest effort displayed by a visiting team this season. Team had little life in the field. Mason Davis appeared to give up on Morgan’s line single in the fifth, and then after fielding it sent a throw home that went well up the line at third.
The failure to get an out on a catch or a force in the first cost them three runs. No one appeared to communicate with Twine, who had his back turned to the play.
A sloppy play by Austen Smith in left allowed Morgan to move to second before he scored in the fourth.
Arturo Rodriguez: The SAL all-star punished a couple of mistakes by Crawdads pitching. He kept the third alive by slapping an 0-2 high slider to right, which lead to Woods homer. In the seventh, it was an 0-2 hanging curve by Ricardo Rodriguez that was drilled to right for an RBI.