Moran homers in debut as Hoppers win

July 17, 2013

As an old structure was falling outside the ball park Wednesday night, something else was just beginning inside.

Colin Moran, the Miami Marlins’ No. 1 draft pick a month ago, began his pro career by hitting a home run his first time up to help the Grasshoppers to a 4-3 win over the Charleston RiverDogs in NewBridge Bank Park.

Catcher Jose Behar added a two-run homer, Cameron Flynn singled in the go-ahead run and some sharp relief pitching preserved the victory, pushing the Hoppers to 13-12 in the second half of the South Atlantic League season.

The game was played against a backdrop of a demolition shovel taking down part of the old North State Chevrolet structure just beyond left field. Clouds of dust rose occasionally as the work went on into the evening.

Moran, who played three years at UNC, was greeted enthusiastically by the crowd as he came to the plate with two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the first inning. It had been about a month since Moran faced lived pitching and he said it felt a lot like an opening day.

Facing left-hander Daniel Camarena, the left-handed Moran took a ball, fouled off two pitches and took another ball. Then he lined a pitch over the Mercedes-Benz sign in right field for a homer to give the Hoppers a 1-0 lead.

“It was good to get my nerves out,” Moran said. “I believe I got a fastball. I had two strikes so I was looking to get my bat on a good pitch to hit. A lot of thoughts were going through my head and I was trying to clear them out.”

Moran flied out to center in his second at-bat, grounded out to short in his third and drew a walk on a 3-and-2 pitch his last time up.

“We looked real good with him in the lineup,” said manager Jorge Hernandez. “We looked like a whole different team. He can fit in really good hitting third in the lineup.

“A home run on his first at-bat, that’s a plus. And the other at-bats were quality, other than the first-pitch groundout to shortstop.”

Moran handled one chance at third base, stabbing a hot one-hopper and throwing out the runner.

“That was a do or die thing,” he said.

Moran’s mother was on hand to watch as part of a divided family. His dad was in Las Vegas watching his older brother, Brian, pitch in the Triple A all-star game. Brian Moran, who also played at UNC, is a reliever with the Seattle Mariners’ farm team in Tacoma.

Behar’s homer came in the bottom of the second, a two-out shot to left after a single by Yordy Cabrera that made it 3-1. It was Behar’s first of the season and third of his career. He hit one in the Gulf Coast League in 2011 and one with Jupiter last season.

“That felt good,” Behar said. “It was a 2-and-0 pitch and I was looking for something I could drive and it went out. Home runs are not my specialty.”

Hernandez said he likes the way Behar calls a game and throws runners out. He nabbed Angelo Gumbs at second base in the fourth inning.

Behar said he likes what he was seen since Moran joined the team Monday and rode the bus to Kannapolis.

“Since he’s been here he’s been real humble,” Behar said. “He’s added a boost to the lineup. Everyone was looking to see what his bat is all about.”

Charleston tied the game 3-3 in the top of the third. The Hoppers countered with what proved to be the winning run in the fourth. Viosergy Rosa led off with a single, moved to second on a wild pitch, went to third on a deep flyout and scored on Flynn’s single.

Starter Austin Brice wasn’t at his sharpest, giving up three runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings. He made a spectacular defensive play in the fifth inning, whipping his glove behind his back to knock down a line drive by Jake Cave, then scrambling after the ball and throwing him out.

Jheyson Manzueta relieved Brice with one out in the sixth and pitch 1 2/3 shutout innings. Mason Hope made his first relief appearance of the season and added another 1 2/3 shutout innings.

“Manzueta got his fastball down and forced contact,” said pitching coach Blake McGinley. “Hope mixed his pitches well, had more life to his fastball and his changeup and slider were better.”

With one out in the ninth, Hope hit Danny Oh, then picked him off first. He was in line for the save, but Cito Culver punched a single into right field. Hernandez decided to play the matchup, bringing in lefty Frankie Reed to face left-handed Greg Bird.

Things got a bit tense when Bird drew a walk, but Gumbs’ fly ball to right, which carried deeper than everyone figured, was caught on the warning track by Jesus Solorzano to end the game. That preserved Brice’s sixth win and earned Reed his 12th save.

“That was scary,” Reed said. “Haven’t had one like that in awhile.”

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