GREENSBORO, NC (HICKORY) — The Hickory Crawdads kept their hot start to the season rolling Tuesday night with some thunder from their offense, as home runs from catcher Tyler Sanchez and center fielder Eric Jenkins lifted the ‘Dads to a 5-4 win over the Greensboro Grasshoppers at NewBridge Bank Park.
The Crawdads and Grasshoppers were locked in a 1-1 tie heading into the 6th when Sanchez uncorked his long ball with a 3-run homer to left to put Hickory on top for the first time with a 4-1 score. Greensboro rallied in the bottom of the inning with two tallies of their own to cut the deficit to 4-3, but Jenkins answered for the ‘Dads in the top of the 7th with a line drive, solo shot down the right field line that proved to be the difference in the 5-4 Hickory victory.
The power bats supported a solid pitching performance from Peter Fairbanks and Tyler Davis, with the duo holding the ‘Hoppers to four runs, three earned, on five hits to improve the Crawdads to 5-1 to start the year.
It was the Grasshoppers who jumped out to the initial lead in the 1st, as Rony Cabrera drew a one-out walk, Josh Naylor singled to right, and Angel Reyes drove in the run on an RBI fielder’s choice to put Greensboro ahead 1-0. The ‘Dads responded in the top of the 2nd with a leadoff double to right from LeDarius Clark, a base knock to right by Sanchez, and an RBI sacrifice fly from Ti’Quan Forbes to tie the contest at 1-1.
The game score remained the same until the 6th, when Dylan Moore reached on a one-out double to left and Clark singled to left before Sanchez unloaded his 3-run blast inside the left field foul pole to break up the tie and put Hickory on top 4-1. Crawdads manager Steve Mintz sent Fairbanks back out to start the bottom of the 6th, but the right-handed hurler ran into trouble as Zach Sullivan struck out only to reach on a passed ball, Anfernee Symour lined a single to right, and Cabrera walked to load the bases with nobody out. The next batter, Josh Naylor, then delivered a 2-RBI single to right to knock Fairbanks from the game and tighten the Crawdads advantage to 4-3.
The ‘Dads turned the inning over to Davis with the game on the line and the 5’10” reliever responded with three quick outs to strand the two inherited runners and keep Hickory ahead by one. Jenkins provided the Crawdads with a much needed insurance run in the 7th when he laced the first pitch he saw over the right field fence for a solo homer and a 5-3 ‘Dads lead.
Greensboro made one last rally in the 8th with a triple from Cabrera and an RBI groundout by Naylor, but Davis finished it off from there with a perfect 9th inning to close out the win.
Fairbanks (1-0) earned the “W” for the Crawdads with three runs allowed, two earned, on four hits, two walks, and three strikeouts while becoming the first ‘Dads pitcher to enter the 6th inning this season. Davis (1) picked up the save after allowing one run on one hit and 4 Ks during his 4 IP. Grasshoppers reliever Nestor Bautista (0-1) took the loss, as he gave up four runs on five hits while tossing 3.2 innings.
Sanchez finished the night 2-3 with a home run, three RBI, a walk, and a run scored to lead the ‘Dads bats, while Clark (2-4, 2B, 2 R) and Ibanez (2-4, 2B, SB) both had multi-hit games as well.
The Crawdads (5-1) will try to finish off a 3-game sweep of the Grasshoppers (1-5) Wednesday morning, with first pitch scheduled for 10:45 am.