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Dateline - Greensboro, North Carolina.
Dateline – Greensboro, North Carolina
There is perhaps no better time of year for baseball than the late spring in the Key City and in greater North Carolina. May is the time you will want to visit whether your interest is literary work, blues, or baseball. Especially with the Division leading Smoke playing complete team baseball. The fans of Carolina baseball were not just treated to the ACC Baseball Championships in Durham May 23-28, but superb play by their beloved Greensboro Smoke the whole month long.
Series One: Northwest Ohio comes to town and pushes the Smoke to the brink.
Game One: Greensboro 2, NW Ohio 0
WP: J. Montgomery (3-1) LP: A. Houser (0-1) SV: J. Romano (11)
HR: T. Edman (4)
In the annual tradition across GUSSOMO, May the Fourth, has become Star Wars night around the league. This year, Greensboro hosted the Franconians to open a three game set, in uniforms that seemed to harken the players to X-wing pilots in their attack runs going into the Death Star. With all the pomp and circumstance that Greensboro could muster, the Rebel Alliance theme playing, the Smoke took the field with the usual Toast to the Ol’ North State as lefty Jordan Montgomery took the hill.
It would seem that the force is strong with the Left-hander as he masterfully changed speeds and moved the ball all around the zone, having a no-hitter through five and a third innings of work. Jordan finished his seven innings giving up just one hit, walking two and striking out five Northwest Ohio hitters. “I really had a good feel for all my pitches tonight.” Montgomery said after the game. “And my defense really picked me up tonight so I could use both sides of the zone.”
The Franconians were not the only hitters who struggled at the plate, as the Smoke hitters only managed five hits, but thanks to the captain, Tommy Edman, the Smoke got a run on the board in the first inning, thanks to a Big Fly by Number 19. The Smoke tacked on another run in the eighth, thanks to a single by catcher Tucker Barnhart. Barnhart was pulled for fan-favorite pinch runner, Brett “Maverick” Phillips. Phillips danced away from first and quickly took off and stole second base. Yasmani Grandal, in an attempt to catch the ambassador of fun, threw the ball into centerfield, allowing Maverick to take third base easily before JP Crawford hit a seeing eye single up the middle to plate the second run.
The Jedi Master of the bullpen, Jordan Romano came on in the ninth to pick up his 11th save, even though he allowed some traffic on the bases, he had Sam Haggerty ground into a 5-4-3 double play to end the game. “I have to hand it to Ryan and Tommy,” Romano said. “They are great to have behind you at the end of the game. I made my pitch and the guys picked me up after giving up to singles. It’s a closer’s worse nightmare to put the tying run on base.”
Game Two: NW Ohio 7, Greensboro 5 (11 innings)
WP: J. Adam (1-1) LP: S. Martinez (1-2) SV: D. Santana (1)
HR: Y. Grandal (2), S. Haggerty (1), S. Brown (2)
Following the dominant pitching performance on May the 4th, tonight’s match was clearly a “Revenge of the Fifth.” Starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner has been outstanding all year, however tonight, the dark side of the force or Father Time caught up to him. The Outlaw Southpaw was pedestrian today, giving up nine hits in six innings, giving up four earned runs. He exited the game trailing 4-3, hoping that there would be some assistance from the lineup.
The Smoke were able to tie up the game in the eighth at five. With one out, Kyle Schwarber drew a walk before Andrew Vaughn moved him to third with a double to center. Ryan McMahon was able to drive in Schwarber with a ground out to first. Then with two-outs, Dylan Carlson walked to put runners on the corners. Nolan Gorman then seemed to hit a ball that would have been out of Yellowstone to center, however, the Warehouse kicked the ball back into play. Having scored Andrew Vaughn, Nielsen gave the go ahead to see if Carlson could score from first, but he was thrown out Chris Taylor, leaving the game tied at five going into extras.
The Smoke seemed to have lost their momentum as they entered the tenth and eleventh innings. The hitters struck out three times and managed only one baserunner in the 11th. However, the Franconians were able to rally in the top of the 11th, Joey Wendle reached on an error by slick fielding shortstop, JP Crawford before the nine-hole hitter, Seth Brown hit a two-run home run.
Having both franchises showing off their finest wares, the two teams square off tomorrow night for the rubber match as James Taillon takes on Jeffrey Springs. It will be the finest of all Friday evening activities in the Carolinas, where a full house is expected.
Game 3: Greensboro 5, NW Ohio 1
WP: J. Springs (4-0) LP: J. Taillon (0-1) SV: V. Velasquez (3)
HR: A. Vaughn (8), D. Carlson (1)
More than 44,500 fans went through the turn styles as Greensboro and Northwest Ohio faced off in the rubber match between two proud franchises. The Smokehouse atmosphere was palpable as the hometown fans gave up their Friday night plans to cheer on their beloved Smoke to victory. With each pitch, there seemed to be an expectation that the season seemed to rest of each called strike or ball. Thankfully, the surprise starter, Jeffrey Springs, seemed to rise to answer the bell with each time he takes the hill.
Springs was masterful once again this spring, tossing six innings of one run ball on six hits, without walking anyone. Oddly enough the lefty seemed to use his new found “sweeper” to get hitters out, not as a strikeout pitch but as a way to induce ground ball outs. Springs only struck out four, but induced seven weakly hit balls for easy outs in his six innings of work. “Who would have thought that the sweeper would be such a pitch to cause such poor contact?” Nielsen said after the game. “I’m sure that the league is going to catch onto this and simply just lay off the sweeper.”
On offense, the Smoke took the lead in the bottom of the second with a leadoff homerun by Andrew Vaughn. The second-year pro seems to be catching fire, showing the world that he was worth that top five pick in 2022. Vaughn’s homerun was his eighth of the season and he leads the team with 19 RBI in this early showing. The rest of the Smoke began to heat up in the fourth inning when newcomer Dylan Carlson, showed all of Greensboro why he was so valued by Nielsen in the 2021 GUSSOMO draft (who was selected one place before Greensboro had the opportunity to draft him at number eight that year). After Edman struck out and Schwarber grounded out in the fourth, Greensboro got a bit of luck as Vaughn got on base thanks to an error by Carlos Santana, rattled by this James Taillon walked Ryan McMahon on four pitches before Dylan came up in this clutch situation. Carlson hit a 1-1 slider deep and high over the Smokehouse in Right Centerfield for a “no-doubter” giving the Smoke a 4-1 lead that would stand for the rest of the night.
Closing out the game tonight was Vince Velasquez, picking up his third save on the season, giving Jordan Romano a night off to rest his arm for the upcoming series with the vaunted Mob. Greensboro gets ready to welcome the Mob and their quick witted yet slow a foot manager, Fred the Turtle for a three game set. The Smoke look to improve on their 18-9 record, while NW Ohio falls to 17-9 on the early season.
Series Two: Fred the Turtle brings in the boys of Red and Green and leaves with a free broom from Game Three.
Game One: Greensboro 7, Chicago 0
WP: J. Montgomery (4-1) LP: P. Lopez (1-3)
HR: K. Schwarber 2 (8, 9)
Greensboro and owner Lars Nielsen welcomed in the storied franchise of the Chicago mob for their three-game tilt here in May. Knowing owner, Larry Steinburg’s passion for the rail system, the Smoke came up with their theme for the series of the “Railway series” sponsored by both Amtrack and NCRR. Little known fact about Greensboro is that it is the only city in North Carolina that has three major lines for the NCRR running through it. As such Game One has been entitled “the Carolinian Matchup,” after the Red line that runs north and south from Greensboro to New York City. What a better way to start the Carolinian Matchup with former Yankee, now Smoke Ace, Jordan Montgomery on the bump.
Montgomery took to the mound like a conductor takes to a getting under way. He was masterful in the way that he conducted the game from the mound, never tiring and never being flustered. He gave up only six base runners (5 hits and a walk) in seven innings of work, striking out only one batter, he seemed to be working on this premise of make the hitters swing at his pitches. When he did allow a baserunner, he quickly changed those singles into 6-4-3’s or 4-6-3’s as Montgomery induced three double plays immediately after receiving a baserunner. “Jordan was masterful tonight,” Nielsen stated in his postgame conference. “But we all know that the man of the night was not Jordan but Kyle Schwarber who did his best John Henry impression tonight with the lumber.”
Schwarber looked like he was ready to lay some track as the on-deck circle didn’t have the typical donuts that had previously been presented to get hitters loosened up. This time, there was just a sledge from the NCRR, which few Smoke hitters took advantage of, except Scwarbs. And that time with the sledge paid off. Schwarber hit the first pitch he saw in the first inning for a three-run bomb, as he made his way around the diamond, he seemed to be pounding down spikes at each base as he rounded the diamond. Then again in the fourth inning, he hit the first pitch he saw for a two-run bomb. This time going around the basepaths, he was a locomotive, tooting the whistle each time he hit a base.
It would seem that the beginning of the railway series has been firmly established by the Conductor and Big John Henry. Tomorrow night for “the Piedmont Matchup” Carlos Rodon takes on the Outlaw Southpaw.
Game Two: Greensboro 2, Chicago 0
WP: M. Bumgarner (5-0) LP: C. Rodon (2-3) SV: J. Romano (12)
HR: T. Edman (5)
There is nothing more Carolinian than a full hog BBQ, Sunday Potlucks, and an argument about which Moonshine is the most authentic use of corn mash. Now locals to the Greensboro/High Point area know full well the love of good “Q,” the importance of their local houses of worship, but few folks in this area debate legal Moonshine without bringing up local distillery, Piedmont Distillery, the first legal distillery after prohibition in North Carolina. So, this Sunday Evening for the “Piedmont Matchup,” was sponsored by Piedmont and the first 20,000 legal paid adults got a small sample of their award-winning Midnight Moon for coming to the ballpark.
Whether it was the spirits in the stadium or the renaissance of Madison Bumgarner, Sunday night in Greensboro was well done as an evening at the ballpark. Bumgarner was brilliant in his approach, as he instituted the “sweeper” in this repertoire for tonight’s matchup. It seemed to be everything an aging lefty needed. MadBum held the Mob to a mere three hits and two walks in six, shutout innings of work. “It is so effective,” Madison said after the game. “It’s not a strikeout pitch for me, but it does keep hitters off balance and creates a lot of weakly hit balls for the defense to take care of.”
The Smoke offense was reasonable on the day. Thankfully the Captain, Tommy Edman, was able to come through with a big fly of his own in the third inning and the Smoke were able to manufacture a run in the second with a walk, a sac bunt, a wild pitch and a ground out. “Sometimes, we need to win ugly,” Edman said after the game in his locker. “Sometimes we get good contact, but against a quality pitcher like Carlos, we needed to do everything we could to succeed.”
The Smoke ended the three-game set with the Mob in what is being titled as the “Crescent Matchup” with Jeffrey Springs taking the mound against JT Brubaker as the honor the longest heavy rail line of the East Coast.
Game Three: Greensboro 2, Chicago 1
WP: J. Springs (5-0) LP: J. Brubaker (1-2) SV: J. Romano (13)
HR: K. Schwarber (10)
The final game between the Smoke and Mob this season was a beautiful night for baseball in the Carolinas; a light breeze, a touch of a chill to the air, and the bright lights of a Cathedral touched all the senses for those entering the Smokehouse tonight. After taking the first two games of the series, the Greensboro Smoke looked to sweep the Chicago Mob as they sent new lefty sensation, Jeffrey Springs to the mound in the last of the railway series entitled the “Crescent Matchup.”
Springs was the first Smoke pitcher to give up a run to the Mob all series, on a Luke Thomas sacrifice fly to right in the third. Otherwise, Springs was equally as dominant as every other pitcher for the Smoke in this series. He allowed just three hits with no walks in six and two-thirds innings, while throwing a mere 78 pitches. Heavily relying on the “sweeper” to keep hitters off balance, Springs just continued to throw strikes and limited opportunities for the Mob offense.
On the other side of the diamond, the Smoke strung together small ball hits in the second inning to plate a run, thanks to a bases-loaded single by Cedric Mullins. Then, to lead off the third, Kyle Schwarber brought out the NCRR sledgehammer to loosen up. The crowd seemed to go wild at the sight of the ten-pound sledge in the hands of the mighty lefty. Schwarbs did not disappoint as he then grabbed his bat and seemed to effortlessly hit the ball 450 feet, deep into the North Carolina night. The offense was shut down mostly for the rest of the night and clung to a 2-1 lead going into eighth, but Garcia and Romano were able to take care of the Mob in the late innings despite having traffic on base each inning.
Greensboro had one of their best series of their history from the mound. The Mob hitters were still baffled with what to do, as they went a combined 17-for-92 in the series and 3-for-20 with runners in scoring position. “We know that holding a team to a buck, eighty-two is not something we can hold to throughout the year.” Owner Lars Nielsen said from his series ending press conference. “But, I think that we have found an extra weapon thanks to our pitching staff. We will see what the rest of 2022 holds for the Smoke.” Greensboro prepares for the vaunted Cybermen with a record of 21-9 and will bid the Mob a fond farewell as they head back to the windy city.
Series Three: The Cybermen come to town to avenge their 2022 Post-season loss. Is Greensboro up to the task?
Game One: Greensboro 4, McHenry County 0
WP: J. Montgomery (5-1) LP: A. Sampson (0-1)
HR: N. Gorman (3), J. Crawford (3)
Once again, the rail system was used to bring another Steinberg to town. However, this time the rails brought the full automated Cybermen from Northern Illinois in McHenry County. The robotic train emptied bots and cars to not only get the team to the hotel and the ballpark, but set up their own private clubhouse just off the Warehouse in Right Field. The precision with which McHenry runs their team is legendary and it is the hope of all the citizens of the Carolinas that the Smoke shutdown the Cybermen uprising, sending their autonomations back to Illinois quickly. To start out the series, McHenry brough the righthander Sampson to duel against the Old North’s State favorite Ace, Jordan Montgomery.
It seemed that the matchup favored the Smoke in every way, as the .500 Cybermen seemed to be overly confident in their approach at the plate. Montgomery was simply dominant all night, as he was able to limit the Cybermen hitters into pitchers counts all night long. Montgomery pitched a complete game, shutout as he lowered his ERA to a tiny 0.73 on the season. He allowed a leadoff double to Bryan Reynolds but then only five singles the rest of the way. Attempting to lay off the sweeper, only gave a greater advantage to Montgomery as he worked ahead in counts. Of his 27 outs recorded, only seven came via the strikeout, five fly ball outs to the outfield, the other 15 outs were weakly hit balls in the infield.
It was not just the dominance on the mound that was of note this evening. Nolan Gorman came through with a solo jack in the fourth and the biggest star at the plate all night was the Crawdaddy. J.P. Crawford was exceptional all over the ball park tonight. Although he struck out to end the 2nd, he seemed to use what he learned at that at bat, as he hit a 2-0 offering deep over the Right Field wall for a two run “deep fly.” He followed that up with a RBI single in the sixth and a Baltimore Chop single in the eighth.
The Smoke will attempt to continue this streak of good luck tomorrow night as Madison Bumgarner takes on Cybermen Ace Lucas Giolito.
Game Two: Greensboro 6, McHenry County 0
WP: M. Bumgarner (6-0) LP: L. Giolito (2-2)
The Evening of May 14th was a warm evening, showing signs that days becoming longer are raising the temperature and pushing spring away to give way to summer. The action was heating up on the diamond as well as the most surprising find this off-season, Madison Bumgarner seems to have found the secrets of the fountain of youth in his newfound sweeper. He showed tonight that he has a newfound mastery of this pitch.
The Outlaw Southpaw was simply dominant all night, building on the success that Montgomery had the night before. Allowing only five base hits and one walk, MadBum was able to work around the three doubles given up, thanks in part to outstanding defense, including three twin killers and six strikeouts. “He has simply been miraculous this year,” Lars Nielsen said after the game. “What can you say otherwise? In any one game, any team can beat any other. But for six outings this year, we can simply just press the “W” Flag to get ready to fly with Madison. It’s exceptional.”
The offense also has been producing with big number 40 on the bump. The Smoke pounded out fourteen hits tonight, with five players having multi-hit games. The Crawdaddy continued to pound the ball, going 2-for-3 and Andrew Vaughn just keeps racking up hits, going 3-for-5. The only thing that kept tonight from getting completely out of hand is Greensboro was “only” 5-for-20 with runners in scoring position, leaving 14 men on base.
The brooms will be out tomorrow night for a potential Steinberg sweep, as Jeffrey Springs takes on Johnny Cueto.
Game Three: McHenry County 7, Greensboro 6 (16 innings)
WP: J. Brebbia (2-0) LP: J. Romano (0-1)
HR: B. Stott (1)
There is a slight bit of arrogance that seems to have come in on this last high-pressure system that brought in warm weather and more humid air. As the good book says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” To say that there was some arrogance would be accurate in Greensboro, it is hopeful that the seeds of arrogance have not given way to unbridled pride. This evening, the Smoke battled for almost two complete baseball games, as they dropped to the Cybermen 7-6 in 16 innings, in one of the longest remember baseball games at the Smokehouse.
The game took an amazing four and a half hours to complete as both teams had exhausted their bullpens. McHenry County went through eight pitchers on the evening, while Greensboro went through six pitchers, completely taxing their bullpens. The Smoke did have the lead going into the top of the eighth inning, when Trevor Stephan gave up a sacrifice fly after two singles and stolen base to the seven, eight and nine hitters in the lineup.
The game remained tied as goose eggs filled the board until the top of the 16th. Exhausted, Jordan Romano came in to attempt to fill in one more innings with no arms left in the pen. Contreras led off the inning with a double off the wall in right, as the collective air seemed to leave the stadium entirely. With no one out, Romano was able to get a pop out to short and a lazy fly ball to center. However, in attempting to strike out David Fletcher, the small wizard with the bat, laced a single over the head of Tommy Edman for a RBI single.
The Smoke were unable to tie up the game, though they got two runners on the bottom of the frame, but the worm burner hit by Dylan Carlson was picked by Tim Anderson and tossed to David Fletcher to end the four and a half hour ordeal. The Smoke now stand at 23-10 while the Cybermen were able to bring their record back to 13-14. Greensboro welcomes in the vaunted Fenway franchise for the “Greensboro Bound” celebration May 18-21, including the Carolina Blues day at the park May 20th.
Series Four: Fenway and their Faithful enter Greensboro ready to tame the Smoke, walk away tamed themselves.
Game One: Greensboro 3, Fenway 2
WP: Y. Almonte (1-0) LP: J. Chavez (2-1) SV: J. Romano (14)
HR: C. Correa (6)
To see the Red and Navy Blue of the Fenway Faithful invade Greensboro is always a sight to be seen. There seems to have been an influx of Northeasters coming into the Key City every May and this time there seems to be a good reason why (aside from the game at Bellemeade and Edgeworth). May 19th is also the beginning of the Greensboro Bound Literary Festival, which brings in authors from all over United States to highlight the works of authors from a wide range of interests as well as increase reading for students throughout North Carolina.
This evening’s event at the ballpark read like the Hero’s Journey blueprint throughout literature. Taking the mound tonight was the toast of the town, Jordan Montgomery who entered tonight’s outing with a twenty-four and two-thirds scoreless inning streak against aging right hander Corey Kluber. Both pitchers were masterful in their six innings of work. Each man commanding the mound as they were able to each pitch quality starts. However, in the top of the second, Carlos Correa ended the scoreless inning streak for Montgomery with a towering blast into section 127. It cemented Jordan’s place in the history books for Greensboro, going 24 and 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball.
As the bullpens took over in the seventh, it was decided by the least likely candidate for Greensboro’s victory. With one out in the seventh, captain Tommy Edman hit a seeing eye single to right before Cedric Mullins struck out. This led to the Crawdaddy hitting a double deep to centerfield. Being aggressive to tie up the game, Nielsen sent Edman home, who easily beat the tag to tie the game up at two. With all the Charcoal and Emerald fans erupting from their seats, they barely had time to catch their breath before Kyle Schwarber hit a Herculean blast into the Bermuda Triangle in Centerfield. The ball seemed to bounce off the wall four times before Pollock could retrieve it for a stand-up triple and a 3-2 lead.
Gratefully the combination of Seth Martinez and Jordan Romano sealed the victory, striking out five of the seven batters they faced, as the Smoke defeated the Faithful. “We are really proud of our guys tonight,” Nielsen said after the game. “They showed what resiliency looks like in the face of adversity. There should be a book written about these guys. Perhaps we can find some of the authors from the Greensboro Bound Festival to come ghost write some of these accomplishments for us.”
Game Two: Greensboro 8, Fenway 0
WP: M. Bumgarner (7-0) LP: T. Mahle (2-1)
HR: K. Schwarber (11), R. McMahon (5), T. Edman (6)
The Greensboro Smoke are honored tonight to assist in the hosting of the Carolina Blues tonight on May 20th, as the Smoke host the Faithful from Fenway. With thanks to the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society for their care of keeping the Blues alive in Greensboro since 1895, tonight’s matchup had the sounds caring from LeBauer Park just down the street from the Smokehouse. It would seem that the blues also seemed to carry into the dugout for the Fenway franchise as they were curtailed by the Outlaw Southpaw by the score of 8-0.
The Smoke were assisted by the erratic control of Fenway starter, Tyler Mahle, who hit two batters in the first inning, aside from giving up four free passes to Smoke hitters and a deep fly by Kyle Schwarber. Mahle lasted four and a third innings of work, raising his ERA to 3.77. The Smoke were not done dishing out pain, as both Ryan McMahon and Tommy Edman hit solo shots off reliever Matt Bush.
This was more than enough for Bumgarner who was solid all night long, giving up a mere three hits and one walk over six innings of shutout baseball. After all the pomp and circumstance around Jordan Montgomery’s scoreless inning streak, MadBum has now the second longest streak in franchise history with 21 1/3 innings of shutout baseball. “I just simply love pitching here in Greensboro.” Bumgarner said after the game. “There is something special about pitching here in the Ol’ North State. I know Jordan and Jeffrey feel the same way.”
The Smoke go for the series sweep tomorrow night as Jeffrey Springs takes on Faithful Ace Sandy Alcantara.
Game Three: Greensboro 5, Fenway 4 (11 innings)
WP: A. Morejon (1-0) LP: M. Bush (0-2)
HR: I. Happ (3)
A Saturday Night in May might just be one of the sweetest times in the year to come to the Smokehouse. Aside from the full hog smoke that permeated their air, the sounds of birds in the air and the beautiful masterpiece of a sunset by the Creator, it seemed that Iowa is not heaven, rather it is right here at Bellemeade and Edgeworth. This evening’s competition was something straight out of a movie as the Greensboro Smoke edged out the Fenway Faithful 5-4 in 11 innings.
The Smoke had a herculean task in front of them, attempting to dethrown perhaps the best pitcher in all of Baseball, Sandy Alcantara. The Fenway Ace did not make things easy on the Smoke, pitching like it was 1923, not 2023, Alcantara went 8 and 2/3 innings, not walking anyone, merely striking out four, but giving up 11 base hits. Even some of the old timers in the stands were commenting how they respected Alcantara for his 126 pitches and how he continued to battle through the Smoke lineup.
In the opposite dugout, the Smoke pitchers were solid, as Jeffrey Springs left with a no-decision after six innings of work, giving up three runs on four hits, while striking out seven. It was the bullpen who again nailed down the competition as Vesia in the ninth, Garcia in the tenth and Morejon in the eleventh simply dominated Faithful batters, striking out five and allowing a mere three hits.
Thankfully for all parties involved, the game came to an end in the 11th (unlike that 16 inning debacle against McHenry). With one out in the bottom of the frame, J.P. Crawford drew a walk, followed up by the captain, Tommy Edman who drew a walk after fighting off several two-strike offerings. Cedric Mullins had the chance to play hero but overswung at a cutter and popped out to short. With two outs, it was up to the aging Charlie Blackmon to come through. As the Outfield played for his walk-up song, all of the stadium began to sing along…( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkKwxb3s_W4, Start at :53 seconds)
Josie's on a vacation far away
Come around and talk it over
So many things that I want to say
You know I like my girls a little bit older
I just want to use your love tonight
I don't want to lose your love.... tooo -- n i i i ght
It was that first pitch that Blackmon hit to the right centerfield gap that plated Crawford to end the ball game. The Smoke now have a record of 29-10 as they prepare for the vaunted second half of the Vegas combo, the Volbeat Ghost Archers.
Series Five: Volbeat arrives to dominate the Smoke, leaves with their bows unstrung and an exorcism performed.
Game One: Greensboro 5, Volbeat 0
WP: J. Montgomery (6-1) LP: S. McClanahan (1-3) SV: V. Velasquez (4)
HR: C. Mullins (4), R. McMahon (6)
With names like Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Max Muncy, Willy Adames, Ronald Acuna and Jonathan India, the Volbeat lineup looks more like the 2021 All-Star Game roster than a single baseball team. Throw in the fact that Shane McClanahan was on the bump for the Ghost Archers, there was a papabile anxiety around the ballpark as Greensboro welcomed in Volbeat for a three-game set. In previous years, the Volbeat franchise seems to have dominated this series, however, 2023 seems to be a down year for the Ghost Archers, as the Smoke easily dispatched of Volbeat 5-0, thanks in large part to the “Conductor,” Carolina’s favorite son, Jordan Montgomery.
As the chorus and toasts of the Ol’ North State echoed around the stadium, Jordan began pitching a masterful performance, mixing in his new found “sweeper” with the other pitches in his repertoire. He was dominant in six innings, giving up no runs on six hits. He did have a bit of wildness with his pitches, which resulted in four base on balls, though he did manage to strike out seven hitters. “Tonight, I felt good.” Montgomery said after the game. “That strike zone was a bit smaller than I would have liked, but it seems that it was equal both ways. I’m happy we competed well, and the boys seemed to hit well against McClanahan.”
The offense was headlined by the bottom half of the lineup as Andrew Vaughn went 2-for-3, got hit by a pitch and had two runs scored, Cedric Mullins who went 1-for-3 with a walk and homerun and two RBIs, and Ryan McMahon went 1-for-2 with two walks and a homerun and three RBIs. “It seemed that Mac (Shane McClanahan) was so focused on the top half of our lineup that he let down at the bottom half,” Owner Lars Nielsen stated in his postgame conference. “I’m just glad that our guys strung together hits and worked counts in their favor.”
Game Two: Greensboro 5, Volbeat 4 (10 Innings)
WP: D. Hudson (1-0) LP: K. Jansen (1-2)
HR: T. Edman (7), N. Gorman (4), R. McMahon (7)
In 2023 the thing that seems to remain true is the resurgence of the Outlaw Southpaw, Madison Bumgarner. The crowd entered again to the warmup music of the tall lefty from North Carolina, as big number 40 stood on the mound, even larger than his 6’4” 240 pounds listed on the program. With a delivery that seemed to be released from Little League distance, players all year seem to not be able to pick up his delivery amidst the backdrop of the Warehouse in Right. Tonight, however, Volbeat seemed to have figured out something the rest of the league had missed.
MadBum was pedestrian tonight as his 102 pitches over six innings included four base on balls and four solid base hits, which lead to three Volbeat runs. “It seemed that the ‘sweeper’ that Greensboro is throwing is generally a ball.” Volbeat designated hitter Max Muncy said after the game. “We went to the umps to say that with all that horizontal break, the strike zone must remain the same for where the ball crosses the plate.” It seemed that the talk worked as Bumgarner threw more walks tonight than in his last several appearances combined. Volbeat showed this patience in the second, after a leadoff double by Cabrera, Matt Chapman was able to stay off anything off speed for a walk, and then Max Muncy stayed off all the offerings of Bumgarner for a walk loading the bases. Thankfully for Smoke fans, Bumgarner got Willy Adames to ground into a fielders choice for an RBI and another RBI fielders choice by Ronald Acuna, limiting the damage to just two runs.
Greensboro found themselves down 3-1 as Bumgarner gave way to Seth Martinez in the seventh. Martinez pitched three shutout, no-hit innings for the boys in Charcoal and Emerald and gave the Smoke a chance at a comeback. In the eighth inning, Greensboro manufactured a run after a leadoff single by Crawford, a fielder’s choice and a walk to Edman, a wild pitch moved them to second and third. Then hometown hero Cedric Mullins shocked the whole park putting down a suicide squeeze, which worked to perfection to bring the score to 3-2, with two outs and a runner on third. Schwarber however could not get the tying run across on a great defensive play by Matt Olson.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, the Smoke faced the vaunted Kenley Jensen and were lucky to tie up the game with a solo home run by Nolan Gorman, who hit a ball deep into the Greensboro night. However, the torture of the Smokehouse had not yet released Jensen from its grip. In the bottom of the 10th, Jensen came back out to attempt to keep things tied to head to the 11th. With a leadoff seeing eye single by veteran backstop Tucker Barnhart, the captain Tommy Edman came up to the plate in a matchup more suited to David and Goliath than a matchup on the diamond. The diminuative 5’10” Edman stood in against the 6’5” 265 pound Jensen, not backing down from chin music or another attempt to get him off his spot. Edman found a 2-1 offering and with a quickness with the bat, like a Hwarang, number 19 hit the cover off the ball as it flew over the warehouse in right field, to give the Smoke a 6-5 victory.
Greensboro sends their last Carolina product to the mound tomorrow as Jeffrey Springs takes on Trevor Rogers.
Game Three: Greensboro 6, Volbeat 2
WP: J. Springs (6-0) LP: T. Rogers (0-1) SV: A. Morejon (1)
HR: M. Muncy (3)
It is a rarity in to have an opportunity for a sweep against the Volbeat/Nar Shaddaa/Kessel Run/Nal Hutta Franchise. Knowing that the Smoke dropped two of three in Volbeat, this was the opportunity for Greensboro to have a winning mark against Volbeat on the year. Taking the hill for this last day of May is the “Sweeper” specialist, Jeffrey Springs against reliever turned starter Trevor Rogers.
The contest was largely over before it started. In the bottom of the first inning, the Smoke jumped out to a 3-0 lead as they plated three unearned runs. With the bases loaded due to a Double, a walk, a fielder’s choice and an intentional walk, the Smoke were able to plate three runs on a Ryan McMahon fly ball to Left Field that got under the glove of Ronald Acuna. From that point on, Springs was able to dazzle the Ghost Archers the rest of the way.
Springs went six innings of four-hit ball, making only a mistake to Max Muncy, who waited until he got a pitch that wasn’t a sweeper, for a two-run homerun. Otherwise Springs was excellent and efficient in his 86 pitches before turning it over to long relief specialist, Adrian Morejon, who pitched three innings of shutout baseball for his first save.
Greensboro had a brilliant May, going 13-2, with a team batting average of .267 and a team ERA of 1.59. Perhaps there was nothing more spectacular than to see how the boys of Emerald and Charcoal competed against some topflight opposition. Pacing the way for the Smoke were starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery with his 4-0 record and minuscule 0.51 ERA, as well as captain Tommy Edman with his .279 average, with a team leading 4 homeruns in the month as well as two stolen bases and the most welcome addition to the lineup Nolan Gorman, who hit .300 on the month, with a slugging percentage of .600 and an OPS of .949. The Smoke look to the difficult task of facing Kona Coast, Stanford, Seattle and Washington in an attempt to improve their record of 29-10.