Dan Swain was one of six Hops batters to punch a hit through or over the infield. Also, Dan was one of five to score a run. And, he was one of four to knock in a run for an RBI. But, Dan was the only one to do all three. Yet, Dan would only talk of the team and his teammates. The Hillsboro Hops were not short of key players in a decisive win over the visiting Spokane Indians, 5-1.
One of the most impressive teammates was pitcher Bryan Valdez (W, 1-0). “It’s great to work behind him (fielding) when he is pounding the zone like that.” Dan Swain said. After a quick first, Bryan came on in the second. Jackson Goddard started the game for the Hops but was limited by pitch count to one inning. Valdez came to the mound and held the game under control for six and a third innings. And when he was there, Bryan sparkled. Of the 80 pitches he sent towards the plate, 65 of them crossed for strikes. There were never any more than three pitches called for a ball in any one inning.
Dan Swain revealed another insight. In the sixth inning, starting catcher Ryan January lined a sharp single to center field. Spokane’s Julio Pablo (JP) Martinez quickly grabbed the ball off of one bounce and looked up. Ryan hustling into second. Hurredly, Martinez threw to second but not in time. “The turf is super bouncy. (Ryan) January knows you can take two when the ball bounces.”
Defense Always Present
The stand out play was not limited to the mound or running the base paths. Third baseman Joey Rose showcased one of several examples of fine defensive play. In one particular instance, Indian first baseman Curtis Terry sent a bullet of a grounder toward Rose. “ My first thought was that (it) was getting through the infield.” Dan Swain said. The sharp, stabbing grounder was snagged by Joey before it could get past. In time, Rose threw out the runner in a close play. “(It) came off the bat really loud.” Swain saw it unfold from his right field position. “(Terry) crushed it. Rose made an incredible play.” Even more impressive, the grounder came toward Rose at 116 mph.
“We know we have a good group of guys that can cover a lot of ground. If you don’t, you get exposed.” Explained Swain. “(Our mood) is always bring the heat. Offense. Defense. Doesn’t matter.” It reflected again in the top of the fifth when Hops shortstop Jose Caballero made a great flying stop of a grounder from Spokane’s Obie Ricumstrict. Jose quickly rose and threw to first, just a step late behind the runner. Despite the infield single, the crowd cheered the effort made.
“Tight defense gives (everyone) confidence.” Dan said. ”Speaks to preparation.” To understand the several plays made after diving or stabbing gloves, Dan let me in on one of the reasons. “Knee drills.” I had to ask what a knee drill was. “(We) are on our knees and (they) hit ground balls (to us).”
Manager Shawn Roof Sets Aggresiveness
In his second year of running the team, Shawn has made the team in his mold. In the bottom of the second, Dan Swain launched a double to the left field corner with Ryan Tufts on first.
Standing in the third base coaching box was their manager, Shawn Roof. Animating wildly, Shawn was ‘windmilling’ Ryan all the way. (Windmilling is where the coach moves his arm in a swift, exaggerated circle to motion his player home.) Still halfway between second and third base, Ryan showed no hesitation and motored around third to head home. Somewhere in the swirling dust, Tufts safely touched home plate for the Hops second score of the night and the eventual winning run. “When on base, (Shawn Roof) expects aggressive base running.” Dan explained.
The win drew the Hillsboro Hops (9-6) within one game of the Southern Division leading Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (10-5). The loss dropped the Spokane Indians (6-9) to three games behind the North Division leading Everett Aquasox (9-6). Both teams return to Ron Tonkin Field Saturday night for game two of the five game series. RHP Ryan Weiss will make his first appearance for the Hops. RHP Seth Nordin will start for Spokane.
For the Hillsboro Hops other re-branding, check out Los Lupulos de Hillsboro