The Hillsboro Hops lost the final two games of their first half and still ended up with the best record in the Northwest League and a spot in the playoffs this September as the first half Southern Division Champion. All due to Eugene suffering the same two-loss ending to their season.
The Hops could have clinched it by winning their own game with the Spokane Indians three hours earlier but lost 5-3 and were forced to wait three hours for the results of the Eugene/Tri City game. The Hops/Indians scoreboard looked like a computer read out filled with 1s and 0s with nothing larger. The winning run turned out to be Cristian Inoa’s solo home run shot in the eighth inning.
The Hops gave it their best shot by putting the potential winning run on first and the bases loaded with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Tra’Mayne Holmes stepped to the plate hoping to at least knock the tying run home from second but was unable to get the ball out of the infield, grounding out to second baseman Yonny Hernandez.
Five pitchers were sent to the Hops mound and each allowed one run. Together, they allowed eleven hits and five walks while striking out eleven batters. Brian Shaffer started the game for the Hops but Mitchell Aker (L, 1-5) was the pitcher of record in the fifth and took the loss.
Cole Ragans started for the Indians and lasted through four innings allowing one run on five hits while striking out seven. But, it took him 84 pitches to get through the first four innings. Joe Barlow (W, 3-0) relieved Ragans allowing one run on three hits and striking out another five for the win. Ismel Lopez (S, 1) came on for the final one and two thirds innings of the game for the save.
The Hops’ Drew Ellis added a solo shot of his own to start the fourth. It was one of three hits for the third baseman. Pavin Smith and Camden Duzenack also had multi-hit games with two apiece, which included a double for each. Tim Susnara tripled in the third but was stranded 90 feet from the plate. The Hops left 13 runners stranded on the bases while the Indians lost eleven of their own in the stranded limbo.
With the loss, the Hillsboro Hops (22-16) finished the first half of the season with the Northwest League’s best record and the Southern Division first half crown. The win kept the Spokane Indians (16-22) five games behind Northern Division winner Vancouver Canadians.
The five-game series is tied (2-2) between the two teams. The rubber match on Monday will be the first game of the second half for both teams and will be played at Ron Tonkin Field at 7:05 pm. Expected pitchers are RHP Tyler Keele (3-2) for the Hops and RHP Tyler Phillips (0-1) for the Indians.
Hops notes: This makes the fourth consecutive year the Hops have made the playoffs in five years of existence. Hillsboro won both halves of the season during 2014 and 2015 for four consecutive half crowns. Last year, in 2016, Eugene won both halves of the season but Hillsboro qualified for the playoffs by having the best overall record behind Eugene.
By Greg Stoker