The Hillsboro Hops paced themselves in the late afternoon heat and then powered even further ahead of the Tri-City Dust Devils with a three-run eighth inning, 7-3. A triumvirate of pitchers took the mound and kept the Hops lead with twelve strikeouts on the night.
Temperatures reached 103 degrees in the late afternoon according to the scoreboard. From there, it kept bouncing between 97 and 101 degrees before finally making up its mind to cool off for a bit late in the game. During that high heart, closer Matt Peacock described the normal non-starting pitcher’s adjustment. “(I still) throw to keep my arm lose. We take our practice throws three hours before a game. (But) I don’t throw as much in the (bull)pen since it is so hot and you want to save your energy.”
But, while it was at its hottest, starting pitcher Jhoan Duran (W, 6-2) had to deal with the heat as well as the Dust Devil batters. Jhoan spread six strikeouts over six innings to go with five hits and one run for the win and increased his team-leading win total. The ace threw 95 pitches adding heat to the heat.
But, it wasn’t pitching alone. Slowly, the Hops built up runs over the game. The Hops took the early lead with one run in the first. It was a lead they would not give up. Two more runs in the third pushed the score to 3-0.
The Dust Devils answered with their first run of the night in the next inning. The Hops would answer back with a run of their own in the seventh.
Temperatures started cooling down and the bats started heating up on both sides. Matt Peacock came on for the Hops with the bases loaded and no outs. The go ahead run was now at the plate. When entering a game to this kind of pressure, Matt always has his routine. “Don’t elevate” the pitches. “Keep them low and try to touch the corner of the plate with a strike.” Matt’s control was evident tonight with 28 pitches – 22 of them for strikes. “Game plan is to get ahead so you can throw your pitches – not theirs.” When asked what his pitch was, he answered, “slider is my go to pitch. I have an unusual ‘low three/quarter’ delivery that makes it hard for the batters to see.”
The crowd had seen what Peacock can do before and they silently hoped for a repeat. When Peacock struck out his first batter, the crowd started waking up and making some noise.
“I love it when the crowd starts getting into it.” Peacock admitted after the game. “It messes with the hitter’s mind and makes the batter nervous. It also pumps me up.” Working in unison with the crowd and after issuing a walk, Matt struck out the next two batters to end the inning. After Peacock struck out the side, the Hops batters took charge and had the final say, scoring three runs.
The top of the ninth was all that stood between the Dust Devils and a Hops victory. Up to the mound stepped Matt Peacock. The crowd took up where they left off making noise. Peacock could feel it. “That makes it harder for the batter.” Matt said with a smile.
Lezama singled to lead off. Josh Magee struck out swinging. Robbie Podorsky doubled both runners into scoring position. Almanzar grounded out allowing Lezama to score. Melean grounded out to first for the final out and Matt Peacock (S, 1) earned the save.
The win increased the Hillsboro Hops (17-15) lead over the Eugene Emeralds to two with six games to go in the second half. The loss kept the Tri City Dust Devils tied and in the northern division lead with the Vancouver Canadians.
The five-game series is now even at 1-1. Both teams return to Ron Tonkin Field Monday night for game three. Expected starter for the Dust Devils is RHP Henry Henry (2-5). The Hillsboro starter has yet to be determined.
Hillsboro Hops Photos by Craig Mitchelldyer-Hillsboro Hops
By Greg Stoker