A three run ninth inning proved to be too big of an obstacle to overcome. The Eugene Emeralds’ explosion in the top of the ninth put the game away over the Hillsboro Hops, 6-2.
Before the inning started, the Hops were still looking at a close game, down only 3-2. All they had to do was to get three outs and then come up in the bottom of the ninth for a chance to walk away with a win. The stage was set for a hero to come to the rescue. The tying run would at least be at the plate. If someone got on base, then the plate would hold the winning run. But, they had to get those three outs first. Eugene did not cooperate.
Luis Diaz started off the trouble with a lead-off double and went to third on Nelson Velazquez’ ground out sacrifice. Gustav Polanco sacrificed him home with a sacrifice fly. An even bigger blow came when Jonathon Sierra reached on a fielding error just before Christopher Morel’s two run homer to left. The Emeralds only sent six players to the plate in the ninth but half of them scored.
The Hops started out the game in their favor. In the first inning, the Hillsboro Hops scored two runs and held the early lead. They came off of third baseman Joey Rose’s two run double bringing home center fielder Tra Holmes and second baseman Jose Caballero. Those runs would be the only runs scored for the night for the home team.
Eugene would gain one on the Hops’ lead in the second inning with Jonathon Sierra’s solo shot to right. They would tie the game and then go ahead in the sixth. Kwang-Min Kwon bunt singled and went to second on a wild pitch. He eventually scored on a throwing error to first base trying to pick off a runner. The go ahead run was another unusual play to first. Luis Vasquez scored on Nelson Velazquez striking out. Catcher Andy Yerzy threw down to first to force the batter out and Luis came home.
Still, it was a close game until the three added runs in the ninth. The game was mostly dominated by the pitching on both sides. The Hops managed four hits to the Emerald’s six. a low number of hits for most games. Three of the Hops hits came in the first inning scoring their only runs of the game. Starting pitcher Jeffrey Passantino almost lasted to the sixth inning but reached a 79 pitch count. Sean Barry (W, 1-0) came on in the fifth to allow the Hops only other hit for the night before shutting them down and earning the win. Luis Aquino and Mitch Stophel combined for three innings of hitless relief. In total, Emerald pitchers struck out 15 Hops batters.
Franklyn Soriano (L, 0-1) started for the Hops and went five innings for the loss which included one unearned run.
Joey Rose had half of the Hops four hits, one of them being a two-run double. The other two hits were singles by Tra Holmes and Francis Martinez.
Eugene’s bats were led by two home runs that accounted for half of their runs. Jonathon Sierra, who also scored two runs, sent a solo shot in the second and Christopher Morel had a two run shot in the ninth.
The Loss dropped the Hillsboro Hops (4-4) into third place, one game behind the Eugene Emeralds (5-3) and their win. Eugene remains one game behind the Southern Division leading Salem-Keizer Volcanos (6-2). Eugene took the three game series with the Hops, 2-1.
The Hops continue their homestand with a three game series hosting the league leading Volcanos. Adrian Del Moral is scheduled to start for the Hops. The Volcanos have yet to determine their starter for Saturday. Eugene will return home and host the Boise Hawks for a three game series of their own.
Hops notes: on Friday, the Kane County Cougars sent down two pitchers for a rehab assignment. LHP Lane Ratliff and RHP Cole Stapler.