After winning three games to start the season, the Hillsboro Hops have now lost three in a row. The latest to the Eugene Emeralds 4-3, in their season home opener.
After a flurry of runs to open the game, Eugene scored a lone run in the top of the fifth that stood up for the winning run. Fernando Kelli singled and went to third on Christopher Morel’s single. A wild pitch by the Hops Josh Green brought Kelli home and the Emeralds held the lead for good. Relief pitching from both sides shut down scoring for the rest of the game.
For the second game in a row, the Hillsboro bats struck out 14 times. After scoring 20 runs in the first three games, all wins, the Hops have followed with nine in the last three. Tonight, only the fourth and fifth innings did not feature a Hops batter striking out. On the other extreme were the sixth and ninth. There were only three batters to come to the plate in the sixth inning, all of them striking out swinging. In the last chance ninth, Ryan January walked with one out. The other three batters struck out… swinging.
The Emerald pitchers deserve a lot of the credit. Eury Ramos started and went four innings but was the only blip on the radar. Ramos allowed all three Hillsboro Hops runs on five hits. Jake Steffans (W, 1-0) came on in the fifth and, with help, shut down the Hops the rest of the way for the win. Mitch Stophel and Dalton Geekie (S-2) both pitched one hit-less inning apiece. Geekie earned the save.
Hops pitchers fell one run short. Kenny Hernandez (L, 1-1) started and went 4.1 innings before being relieved. During that time, Hernandez was tagged for all four Emeralds’ runs. The last run was left on third when Hernandez left the game and the runner came home on a subsequent wild pitch. Josh Green, Ethan Larrison and Rafael Pujols came on for the last 4.2 innings allowing only one hit. Like the previous night, the relief squad entered the picture down one run with not enough bats to help.
For the first time this season, the Hops bats failed to hit a home run. But the Hops did manage to get seven hits, three of them doubles. Ryan January and Jorge Perez both doubled in the second, contributing to two runs that tied the game. Dan Swain smacked the Hops third double in the fourth but was left stranded on second.
For Eugene, Fernando Kelli, Jonathon Sierra and Rafael Mejia all went 2-3 on the night and each scored one run. Cam Balego smacked his second double of the season in the second. After the first out of the inning, Mejia stepped up and fired a triple to center field scoring Balego and Sierra who singled to open the inning.
The loss dropped the Hillsboro Hops (3-3) into a tie with the Boise Hawks, one game behind the Southern Division leading Eugene Emeralds (4-2) and the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.
Both teams will play the second game of the three-game match at Ron Tonkin Field Thursday night. LHP Faustino Carrera (1-0) is scheduled to start for the Emeralds. The Hops have yet to determine a pitcher.