baseball 88 298.
(photo credit: AP)
In front of 380 fans and a camera crew from NBC News, Johnny Lopez belted two home runs including a grand slam to lead the undefeated Blue Sox (3-0) past Modi'in Miracle (1-2) at Gezer Field in Kibbutz Gezer.
It was the home opener for Modi'in, as the mayor of the city threw out the first pitch along with other city representatives. Miracle starter Craig Eagle allowed only a Sean Slaughter home run in four innings of work while striking out four. Slaughter's homer in the third was countered by Modi'in by an RBI groundout by Johnathan Ramoo to tie the score at 1. Scott Perlman (1-0) kept Modi'in in check over the contest, using his knee buckling curveball from several different arm angles to baffle the opposing hitters, but Perlman praised his offense for helping the team out: "Our hitters have been picking us up.
Rees and Lopez made it easy. I'm trying to work the corners and make them pop it up." Perlman allowed three runs over 5 1/3 innings to earn the victory. Beit Shemesh got a run in the top of the fifth when Catcher Scott Jarmakowicz walked, went to second on a fielder's choice, went to third on a passed ball, and scored when Miracle reliever Ian Okorofsky blocked a ball being thrown to second base on a stolen base attempt.
Modi'in tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the fifth on a Noah Walker pinch hit homer off of Perlman.
Lopez then took over the game with a 2 run homer off of losing pitcher Andre Sternberg in the bottom of the 6th, and hit a grand slam in the 7th off of Rafi Stern to put the game out of reach. Lopez even pulled the hidden ball trick in the 3rd inning, fooling Oren Gal off the base paths.
Lopez admitted it didn't come easy. "Thank God for the opportunity," he said. "I had a nice night. I had it tough the first two at bats, but I adjusted and helped the team win. The hidden ball trick was my idea, and I apologize to the other team. It was unprofessional."
Modi'in Catcher Eladio Rodriguez homered off of Perlman in the sixth to make it 4-3, but it was all for naught for Miracle manager Art Shamsky, who told The Jerusalem Post: "I'm upset that we lost, upset at the way we played. We're 1-2, spring training is over. These three games gave me a chance to see who played better then the others; it's my fault for the loss."
Blue Sox reliever Juan Feliciano earned the save, getting all of his five outs on strikeouts. Feliciano showed a wide array of quality pitches with movement, and he wants the ball when the game gets tight. "I came in a good situation for the team, and I did my best to stop them and help out my team.
I want to pitch in those situations," he said. After his teams' win, Beit Shemesh manager Ron Blomberg proclaimed that it's all coming together: "Look at it, they have a good team, but they made mistakes. We're beginning to jell as a team right now. The pitching and defense are playing well so far this season, but it's about how you finish, not how you start. It's fun being a part of the community, the kids are starting to have their favorite players," he said. After tonight's game, the Blue Sox fans have many players to choose from as their favorite, but Johnny Lopez made a strong case on a Wednesday night in Gezer.