The Hillsboro Hops eliminated the Boise Hawks with their win over the home team Saturday night, 14-7. Whenever the Hawks would score, the Hops would double it and increase their lead. By the time the dust settled, the Hops were on top of the mountain.
Eugene still has a chance to reach them at the top. The Emeralds own the tie breaker to give them the second half crown if they do. For that to happen, Eugene will need to win their game over the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes Sunday night while the Hops lose their last game of the season to the host Hawks. One Hops win or Emerald loss will give the Hops the second half crown to go with their first half championship.
Either way, the Hops are in the playoffs by virtue of their first half crown. Equally set in stone is that the Emeralds will be their first-round foe. There are two ways for the Hops foe to be decided. First is that Eugene can win the second half crown as explained. If the Hops win that crown, their foe will be decided by whoever has the best record of the overall season. That would also be Eugene who has a three-game lead over Boise with one game left to go. Like a pesky phone call from a marketeer, Eugene keeps popping up as the answer.
Hillsboro will have the southern division best record as they will have won both halves or tied for that honor. Currently the Hops have a two-game lead over Eugene for the best record with one game to go. Hillsboro is also assured of avoiding a losing record in the second half as, at worst, they can finish with a .500 record.
The Hops offense in Saturday’s game was impressive as every batter hit safely at least once. As a team, the Hops went 15 for 43 which translates to batting .348 for the night. Three of those hits were for extra bases with Drew Ellis’ double to lead of the Hops seven-run second, Luis Lara’s three run homer later in the same inning and Ryan Grotjohn’s triple to lead off their two-run seventh. The Hops 15 hits were aided by six walks and three Hawks’ errors. The Hops only struck out three times.
Tyler Keele started for the Hops but was chased in the fourth inning. After one out and three consecutive singles by Cole Anderson, Steven Linkous and LJ hatch to load the bases, Keele walked Sean Bouchard to score Anderson.
Juan Torres (W, 1-0) followed, got the Hops out of the jamb and pitched two more innings for the win. Jordan Watson, Matt Peacock and Breckin Williams each got one inning the rest of the way to hold the Hawks to one hit over three scoreless innings. In total, Hops pitchers struck out 13 batters.
Keinter Olivares (L, 3-3) started for the Hawks and was chased in the second inning after giving up six runs to earn the loss. The Hawk’s relief pitchers did not do much better as their closer in the ninth, Sam Thoele, was the only home pitcher to keep the Hops scoreless during their stay on the mound.
The Hops first playoff game will take place in Eugene on Tuesday after a travel day on Monday. The second game will be played on Wednesday at Ron Tonkin Field. A third game, if necessary, will take place on Thursday at home. Tickets are on sale now.
Hops notes: The Hops received two more players from the AZL D-Backs. They are LHP Kenny Hernandez and RHP Nestor Ramirez.
Kenny was signed as a free agent in July, 2015 and has pitched for the AZL D-Backs and Missoula Osprey. His career record is 2-5 (five starts). In 69.1 innings, he has struck out 65 batters. The 19-year old is from David, Panama.
Nestor was originally assigned to the AZL-D-Backs in 2015 and recently was promoted to the Missoula Osprey earlier this year. In 65 career games, all in relief, Ramirez has an 8-2 record. He has struck out 89 batters against only 22 walks. The 21-year old is from Santo Domingo of the Dominican Republic.
By Greg Stoker