Bill on Baseball: Mangieri Makes Presence Felt with Two HRs
by Bill Hass
Luke Mangieri had a one-word answer when he was asked about his first impressions of Greensboro.
"Hot," he said after a sweltering Tuesday night in which he helped the Hoppers beat Hagerstown 9-3.
That's also an apt description of the way he's hitting. In six games since he joined the team, the first baseman is hitting .348 with three homers and eight RBIs. He smacked a pair of two-run homers Tuesday, the first on a changeup and the second on a breaking ball.
Mangieri is the replacement for Mason Martin, who was promoted to Bradenton after slugging 23 homers and driving in 83 runs in 82 games. But he's not looking to duplicate Martin's production.
"I don't feel any pressure to fill his shoes," Mangieri said. "We're not the same player. I know what I bring to the table and I'm just playing my game. We're all in the minor leagues with the same goal, to reach the majors."
So what does Mangieri believe he brings to the Hoppers' table?
"Line drives, staying consistent and good defense," he replied.
He likes First National Bank Field, which reminds him of the field in his home town of Peoria, IL. That's where he watched many games of the Peoria Chiefs in the Midwest League and also where he played his college ball at Bradley. While his home runs might not have the distance of some of the majestic shots hit by Martin, they're long enough to clear the fence in right field and right-center.
"We had a discussion in the batting cage about him coming here and being aggressive and that's working for him," said hitting coach Chris Petersen. "Tonight he got good pitches to hit and he didn't miss them. Balls travel with good swings in the hitter's zone."
His first homer, in the bottom of the first inning, set the tone for the evening. Connor Kaiser and Grant Koch added solo homers and Fabricio Macias had three hits and three RBIs. Everyone in the lineup has produced during the five games of this home stand, during which the Hoppers have scored 41 runs.
"We're hitting throughout the lineup," Mangieri said. "There are runners on base to drive in and if you get on, someone behind you will drive you in. We've got a good thing going for us."
The problem has been pitching, which has given up 37 runs and is the reason the Hoppers are just 2-3 going into the series finale Wednesday at noon.
Tuesday night, though, the pitching was on. Luis Nova gave up a two-run homer in the the first inning and had runners on second and third with no outs in the second inning. But he extracted himself from that mess en route to 4 2/3 innings of shutout ball with just three hits allowed. Cam Alldred pitched 2 1/3 innings of shutout relief.
"Nova just made pitches," said pitching coach Stan Kyles about the turnaround. "It was most a left-handed lineup (for the Suns) and that's hard for a right-hander to navigate. But Cookie (catcher Grant Koch) did a good job of guiding him through it. He established the ball down a bit better. Then Alldred did a good job of keeping those lefties under control."
Nova picked up his fourth win, striking out six.
NOTES: All four Hoppers homers came off Suns starter Francys Peguero, who was tagged for eight runs (three unearned) in his five innings ... Macias had three hits for the fourth time in five games; he had two hits in the other one and is 14-for-23 in the home stand.
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