Hoppers’ flair for drama continues
Sept. 8, 12:15 a.m.
What a time for your first career walk-off home run.
Christian Yelich’s two-run shot in the bottom of the 15th inning lifted the Hoppers to a 5-4 win over Hickory in the opener of their 3-game playoff series. The teams are off Thursday and the scene shifts to Hickory for game 2 Friday.
The Hoppers made the playoffs by going on an improbable run at the end of the season, including several dramatic wins. They continued that trend Wednesday, falling behind in the game four times, including three times in extra innings. After a homer by Josh Richmond gave the Crawdads a 4-3 lead in the top of the 15th, Marcell Ozuna opened the bottom of the inning by getting hit by a pitch that brushed his jersey.
Yelich followed with a two-run homer to right field.
“I was just trying to put something in play,” he said. “I hit it off the end of the bat and I didn’t think it was out, but it sneaked over the fence. I didn’t get it all, but I got enough.
“It’s the first walk-off home run in my life. Never done it on any level.”
Yelich, who had gone hitless in his first five at-bats, got a big hit in the 13th inning. After Ozuna singled, Yelich drove a changeup into the gap in right-center field to score Ozuna and tie the game 3-3.
Ozuna had two big hits, a home run in the 8th to tie the game 1-1, and a broken-bat single in the 10th to score Danny Black and tie things 2-2.
“Tonight was both teams absolutely fighting their hearts out,” Hoppers manager Andy Haines said. “I’m almost speechless. Christian has been swinging the bat so well, and so has Ozuna. You can just feel it when they come to the plate.”