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CUTTERS NOTEBOOK: Situational hitting improving, Greene Jr. struggling
August 4, 2012 - Mitch Rupert
By MITCH RUPERT
Zach Taylor popped up an 0-1 pitch in the eighth inning Friday night and took just a few steps out of the left-hand batter’s box before slamming his bat into the dirt around home plate.
With a runner on second base and Williamsport trailing Aberdeen by a run, Taylor’s pop out to shortstop accomplished nothing. Outs can be accepted if they’re productive, moving runners ahead a base or driving a run in.
This pop out, however, was unproductive and Taylor knew it. The reaction was a positive sign for Crosscutters manager Andy Tracy.
He’s been harping on the youngest team in the New York-Penn League all year about situational hitting and moving runners. Taylor’s reaction was one of the signs that the players are trying to get it.
“I think that’s the first part of it,” Tracy said. “We can tell them all we want. But they realize they have to get a guy over and it’s like, man, I messed up. I think it’s a great sign.”
It’s been no secret that the Cutters have struggled all year with runners in scoring position. They’re 13th in the 14-team New York-Penn League with a .227 batting average with runners in scoring position. They’re also 14th with the bases loaded at .175, and 13th with runners on base with a .236 average.
As Tracy has said all year, learning situational hitting is all about a process for much of the team. Prior to this season in college or in high school, they’ve been able to go up to the plate and wail away. Now they’re learning how to move runners and how to get the pitches necessary to move the runners.
Through the first two games of the three-game series with Aberdeen, the Cutters executed their situational hitting and turned it into a pair of walk-off wins. After Roman Quinn led off the ninth inning – trailing by a run – on Wednesday night with a triple, Mitch Walding hit a hard ground ball through a drawn-in infield to score the tying run.
Cameron Perkins followed with a bunt so perfect it turned into a hit to put two runners on base with nobody out. Williamsport won seven pitches later on a throwing error. Earlier in that game Quinn got a two-strike pitch up in the zone and lifted a fly ball to left field to score Chace Numata.
In Thursday’s 10-inning win, the Cutters had a pair of two-out singles in the eighth inning, both of which scored a run, to force extra innings. Williamsport, as a team, is hitting just .210 with runners in scoring position and two outs, which is 10th-best in the league.
Quinn said after Wednesday’s walk-off win that the team has not only gotten the message Tracy and the coaching staff has delivered, but they’re also starting to deliver on it.
“We’re starting to learn that part of the game,” Quinn said. “Tracy stresses it enough that situational hitting is important in the game of baseball. We’ve done a good job of it.”
CONSISTENT OPPORTUNITIES: Prior to Thursday’s game against the IronBirds, Williamsport outfielder Kyle Hoppy was explaining how his signing with the Philadelphia Phillies was the perfect opportunity to get his professional baseball career back on the track he wanted it to be.
He had never been an everyday player in three-plus seasons in the Orioles organization. He had never even played more than 46 games in a season. With Williamsport he’s going to get the opportunity to run out to center field every day and get his hacks in the lineup. He thought that was just the opportunity he needed to find some consistency in his swing.
Prior to Friday’s loss to Aberdeen, it hadn’t quite worked out that way. He was hitting just .074 (2 for 27) going into Friday night’s game. But he found some consistency Friday night.
Hoppy was 3 for 4 with a pair of doubles and an RBI. His average was raised nearly 100 points to .161, which may not be something to get excited about, but Hoppy sees it as a good sign.
“It took a little while longer than I hoped,” Hoppy said. “But I’m still going to be optimistic about it and keep going out there and doing what I know I can do and hope that I keep having days like this.”
“When you have consistent at-bats, it helps you out a lot,” Tracy said. “You’re not dealing with something for four at-bats and then have a couple days off. We’re running him out there every day to see what we’ve got from an organizational standpoint.”
GREENE JR. STRUGGLING: The turn of the calendar has been a benefit for the Williamsport Crosscutters as they’ve won two of their three games and found a consistent quality of play it hasn’t seen since the first two weeks of the season.
But the turn of the calendar hasn’t been quite so kind to Cutters left-fielder Larry Greene Jr. The power-hitting left-hander is just 1 for 15 in the month of August. That one hit was an eighth-inning RBI single to left field on Friday night as the Cutters mounted a comeback.
But the struggles have extended beyond just August for Greene, considered the Phillies’ best power-hitting prospect. He’s just 7 for his last 46 (.152 average) since he picked up back-to-back two-hit nights on July 21 and 22. During that time his average has fallen from .293 to .253.
He has just four RBIs during that span and has struck out 13 times against just four walks. In Wednesday’s series-opener against Aberdeen, Greene grounded into a pair of double plays and hit a third tailor-made double play ball in the bottom of the ninth that the IronBirds threw away to allow the winning run to score.
“There’s some things we’re working on with Larry,” Tracy said. “He’s been late and the bat drags through the zone and he hits double-play balls. But one thing I picked out is he hustled down the line every time. He didn’t go down lazy down the line once, which is a positive.”
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