The Hillsboro Hops avoided extra innings with a walk off home run by Drew Ellis in the ninth to beat the Boise Hawks 2-1. The game winning shot came on the third pitch of the bottom of the ninth with no outs on a 1-1 count to the Hops’ third baseman. As soon as it was hit, the crowd knew it was possible for the hit to clear the fence but the collective gasp signified the holding of breath during the wait of the fate of the ball’s destination.
As it cleared the fence, the crowd erupted and Ellis continued to round the bases pumping his elbows as his teammates rushed to home plate to greet the hero of the night. By the time the walk-off home run trot was completed, the Hawks had almost completely left the field leaving it for the home team to celebrate.
The entire game was a pitcher’s duel from beginning up to the last batter. The now familiar pitching team of Brian Shaffer and Kevin McCanna (W, 4-1) again controlled their opponent from the mound. The last time these two aces appeared, they combined for a two-hitter the day before the historic eclipse for a 2-0 win. This time, the Hawks were limited to four hits. One of those hits was a triple by Bret Boswell who would score Boise’s lone run of the night and tie the game for a potential extra inning contest.
Shaffer started the game and went three innings of scoreless one-hit ball and struck out three with no walks before handing the ball to McCanna for his turn on the mound. During Kevin’s first inning, he allowed Boswell’s triple and score for the first earned run against the RHP since being assigned to the Hops on August 3rd.
McCanna quickly regained control and retired the side going the final six innings striking out seven and issuing three walks. The team of Shaffer/McCanna went all nine innings and struck out ten batters.
Pearson McMahan started for the Hawks and gave up the Hops’ first run of the game spreadng four hits over three innings. John Valek pitched four more innings keeping the Hops scoreless during his tenure on three hits. Ethan Westphal (L, 3-3) closed the final inning surrendering Drew’s home run and absorbing the loss.
Despite the low score, the Hops managed nine hits garnering a hit in all innings except the first and seventh. Two of those hits were doubles by Tim Susnara in the second and Pavin Smith in the fourth. The only other extra base hit was Drew’s homer ending the game. Ryan Grotjohn, Smith, Ellis and Jorge Perez had two-hit games to account for eight of the Hops nine hits. Drew Ellis scored both runs for the home team.
The Hawks bats served up four hits on the night. To go along with Boswell’s triple in the fourth, his teammates Steven Linkous, Austin Bernard and Luis Castro served up singles. It was Danny Edgeworth’s sacrifice fly that brought home Boswell for the Hawks’ score.
The win helped the Hillsboro Hops (16-14) maintain a two-game lead over the Eugene Emeralds for the Southern Division lead with eight games left to play in the second half. The loss dropped the Boise Hawks (13-17) to three games behind the Hops. Hillsboro takes the three-game series 2-1.
The Hops remain home for a five-game home stand against the Tri City Dust Devils who are tied with the Vancouver Canadians for the lead in the Northern Division. Expected pitchers are LHP Ben Sheckler (3-2) for the Dust Devils and RHP Tyler Badamo (1-2) for the Hops.
The Hawks continue their road trip for five more games against the Canadians.
Hops notes: Hillsboro already has a ticket to the playoffs by winning the first half. If they win the second half as well, their first round opponent will be the remaining southern division team with the best over all record for the entire season. Tickets for the two Hops home games in the first round are already on sale and can be purchased online or at the box office. First home game will be September 6th.
By Greg Stoker