Hillsboro Hops Hold on for Season Opening 6-5 Victory
Opening night for the two-time defending Northwest League champion Hillsboro Hops ended with just enough to hold on for a season opening victory. Entering the bottom of the ninth, the Hops had a two-run cushion that buoyed them through to a one-run win against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes 6-5. It seemed like no sure thing, however.
Julio Perez took the mound for the Hops in relief in the final inning and gave up a triple to Juan Rodriguez in the first at bat, bringing the tying run to the plate with no outs. Gustavo Cabrera quickly brought Rodriguez in with an RBI single to center field. After opening the inning with two hits, Perez then retired the side in three up and three down fashion to leave Cabrera stranded at first earning the Hops their first save of the young season.
The Volcanoes drew first blood in the bottom of the first, exciting the crowd with an early lead. Manuel Geraldo started the festivities with a line drive double to left field and moved to third on a ground out to the pitcher by Jean Angomas. Geraldo came home on a wild pitch by starting Hops pitcher Anfernee Benitez.
To the disappointment of the crowd, the Hops immediately took the lead in the top of the next inning, scoring three runs for a 3-1 lead. Justin Chigbogu singled up the middle to start the inning. Alexis Olmeda singled Chigbogu over to second. Matt Railey hit into a fielder’s choice moving Chigbogu over to third and runners were at the corners with one out. That set the stage for Jeff Smith to clear the bases with a three-run homer to right. Hops up 3-1.
Scoring stayed relatively quiet until the top of the sixth when the Hops added two more runs to their lead. With one out, Josh Anderson doubled with a sharp line drive to left. Luke Lowery then homered to left and that quickly, Hillsboro was up 5-1 with a commanding lead.
Momentum changed quickly in the bottom of the seventh when the Volcanoes scored three runs to narrow the gap. With one out, Gustavo Cabrera homered to left. Kevin Rivera followed with a single to left. Manuel Geraldo moved Rivera to second with another single to left. Trevor Sims, who took the mound for the Hops in the beginning of this inning, threw a wild pitch advancing both runners into scoring position. Jean Angomas then grounded to first base but it was enough to score Rivera from third and move Geraldo to third. Another wild pitch by Sims brought Geraldo home, making it a one run game. Hops up 5-4.
The Hops answered back with a run of their own in the top of the eighth. Luke Lowry walked to open the inning. Justin Chigbogu then doubled to center bringing Lowry home all the way from first. Hops up 6-4, setting up the mound for closer Julio Perez to hold off the Volcanoes for the Hops first win of the season.
The starting pitcher for the Hops, Anfernee Benitez (1-0), pitched five innings giving up six hits and one run and striking out six for a solid beginning to the season, earning him the win. Julio Perez came on for the save (1). Starting Volcanoes pitcher Victor Concepcion (0-1) took the loss from heavy hitting by the Hops. Concepcion allowed five earned runs on eight hits in six innings. He struck out three and walked one.
Designated hitter Luke Lowry was part of an impressive line up by the Hops. Lowry went 2 for 4 with 2 RBI, a homer and scored two runs. First baseman Justin Chigbogu and catcher Alexis Olmeda also went 2 for 4 making the 4-5-6 positions in the line up, the Hops version of Murderer’s Row. Second baseman Jeff Smith’s three-run homer in the second led the team with 3 RBIs. Matt McPherson went 2 for 5 and Josh Anderson 1 for 3.
For the Volcanoes, catcher Zack Bowers was an impressive 3 for 4 with two doubles but had no one on base to bring home. Left fielder Gustavo Cabrera and second baseman Kevin Rivera were strong with both going 2 for 4 and each scoring once. Cabrera also homered for a team leading 2-RBI. Right fielder Jean Angomas drove in the other earned run.
The Hillsboro Hops (1-0) and Eugene Emeralds (1-0) start out atop the South Division while the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (0-1) sit with the Boise Hawks (0-1) one game behind the leaders. Both teams meet Saturday night, the 18th, for game two of the three game series.
by Greg Stoker