Hillsboro Hops, Jeferson Mejia Slip by Tri-City Dust Devils, 5-4
The Hillsboro Hops never trailed and held on to the slim lead for the win over the Tri-City Dust Devils, 5-4. It was the beginning of a five-game series between the two first-half winners of this year’s season. While both teams are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs come September, neither team gave an inch.
Fernery Ozuna returned to the line-up after resting his back for a couple of games. Ozuna may still be recovering as he was caught stealing twice during the game – a rare occurrence during the season. Josh Anderson remained out, recovering from a concussion during batting practice. Anderson should be back soon.
Neither starting pitcher would hang on for the win or loss during a tight game that saw scoring inch its way throughout the game. For the Hops, Tyler Mark went three innings of quality pitching, allowing no runs on one hit. The Dust Devils starter Walter Lockett went four innings of one-run, three-hit ball, striking out four.
It would be the Hops Jeferson Mejia (4-3) earning the win by going four innings, allowing two runs on four hits, walking three and striking out two. Mejia faced several jams but managed to pitch his way out every time leaving five runners stranded on base. Ryan Burr (S-3) pitched the final inning for the save, allowing one run on one hit and striking out two.
Griffin Russell (2-2) would pitch just the fifth inning for the Dust Devils to take the loss. Russell allowed three runs on two hits, walking two batters.
The scoring started in the fourth inning. Fernery Ozuna led off with a single up the middle. After Alexis Olmeda came to the plate, a pick-off throw by Walter Lockett went wide and down the first base line. Ozuna scooted over to second. Olmeda then slapped a grounder off second baseman Kodie Tidwell’s glove and out to center field for a single, moving Ozuna to third and runners at the corners. Gerard Hernandez hit deep to center field and the sacrifice brought home Ozuna for the game’s first score.
The Dust Devils followed very quickly in the bottom of the inning. Ty France lined past pitcher Jeferson Mejia and up the middle for a single. Carlos Belen blooped a single to right center field moving France to second. Austin Allen sacrificed to center advancing France to third. Mason Smith brought France home with a one hop line drive to left field.
The Hops would earn the game’s biggest lead in the top of the next inning by scoring three runs. Stephen Dezzi led off the fifth with a walk. Sergio Alcantara sacrificed bunted Dezzi over to second. Gall Cribbs, Jr., walked. Zach Nehrir singled to left field to load the bases. Fernery Ozuna sacrificed to center scoring Dezzi and moving Cribbs to third. Alexis Olmeda came to the plate and Nehrir stole second. Olmeda then drove a line drive to left field scoring two runs for the 4-1 lead.
The Dust Devils managed a short one run response in the bottom of the fifth. Rod Boykin lined to right field for a single. Peter Van Gansen walked on four straight pitches. Ty France walked to load the bases. Carlos Belen sacrificed to right scoring Boykin.
The scoring settled down for a few innings but the Dust Devils would wake up again in the bottom of the eighth. Ty France led off with a walk on a full count. Carlos Belen replaced France with a fielder’s choice. Austin Allen singled to left putting runners at the corners. Kodie Tidwell hit back to the mound. Pitcher Breckin Williams shoveled the throw back to catcher Alexis Olmeda but the ball went under his glove and Belen scored to make it 4-3.
The Hops would gain an insurance run in the top of the ninth that they would sorely need to hang on. Galli Cribbs, Jr., singled up the middle. With Zach Nehrir at the plate, Cribbs stole second reaching base. As the throw went into the outfield, Cribbs hustled over to third. Nehrir singled to right scoring Cribbs.
The Dust Devils would tally one more run in the bottom of the ninth to keep it close and make the Hops earn the win. With one out, Rod Boykin walked on four straight pitches. Peter Van Gansen came to the plate and Boykin stole second with the throw from Alexis Olmeda high. Ty France then singled up the middle to score Boykin. With the tying run on base and the winning run at the plate, Carlos Belen struck out swinging. Final score, 5-4.
For the Hops, Galli Cribbs went 2 for 3 and scored two runs. Alexis Olmeda went 2 for 4 with two RBI. Fernery Ozuna went 2 for 4 with a run and a RBI. Zach Nehrir went 2 for 5 with a run and a RBI.
For the Dust Devils, Ty France went 3 for 3 with a run and a RBI. Rod Boykin scored twice.
The Hillsboro Hops (2-1) remained in a tie for first place in the South Division with Eugene and Salem-Keizer. The Tri-City Dust Devils (1-2) remained one game behind North Division leading Everett. Both teams continue the five-game series with game two Thursday night.
By Greg Stoker