With two outs and two men on base in the bottom of the ninth, Tra Holmes smacked a line drive into center field. Drew Ellis sprinted from second base and touched home plate ahead of a throw that was off target and the Hillsboro Hops walked away with a win over the visiting Spokane Indians, 6-5.
After the Hops had inched toward a 2-0 lead, the Indians’ offense awoke from a deep slumber to punch out a 5-2 lead scoring all five of their runs in the top of the fifth. Spokane sent ten men to the plate in a five-hit barrage. It started with a double by Melvin Novoa and was followed by a Kole Enright triple to open up the scoring. Those would be the only extra base hits for Indians on the night. Four more runs scored in the inning with three singles and two hit batters. Afterwards, Spokane scoring went back to sleep.
The Hops plied a different scoring method. Where Spokane grabbed runs by the foot, Hillsboro inched their way through the innings in a classic version of tortoise and the hare. Pavin Smith was in the center of most of the scoring.
In the second, Pavin Smith doubled and came home on Tra Holmes’ ground out. In the fourth, Smith singled and scored on back to back singles by Drew Ellis and Camden Duzenack for an early 2-0 lead.
Down by 5-2 after the five-run inning, Bryan Araiza walked and went to third on Eudy Ramos’ double. Pavin Smith stepped to the plate and grounded out to first baseman Clayton Middleton allowing Araiza to come home on the throw. In the seventh, Smith doubled and came home on a throwing error by third baseman Tyler Ratliff.
The Hops would need one more score by Pavin Smith to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth. With two outs, Smith delivered with a single and moved to second on Drew Ellis’ walk. Camden Duzenack singled home Smith and the score was tied. That set up the game-winning single by Tra Holmes moments later.
Pavin Smith led the Hops bats going 4 for 5 with two doubles, four scores and an RBI. Camden Duzenack and Tra’Mayne Holmes had the other two multi-hit games with both grabbing two hits and two RBIs. Eudy Ramos smacked the other double for the only extra base hits for the Hops. The rest of the night was fueled by seven singles, four walks, two hits batsmen and two throwing errors by Spokane.
Luis Madero started the game for the Hops and was in tight control for the first two innings needing only 13 pitches to cruise to the third. Madero left the mound in the fifth with one out and two men on base. Luis Castillo stepped to the mound with the score at 3-2 and two inherited runners on base. Tyler Ratliff greeted him with a two-run single. Castillo managed to stop the bleeding and Spokane was done scoring for the night. Erbert Gonzalez (W, 2-1) took the mound in the ninth and faced the minimum three batters, in part thanks to a double play, becoming the pitcher of record when the winning run scored.
Josh Advocate (L, 0-2) took the mound for the Indians in the bottom of the ninth and gave up a walk and two singles for the loss.
The win moved the Hillsboro Hops (21-14) into sole possession of first place in the Southern Division with the league’s current best record. The Eugene Emeralds lost, dropping into second-place. The loss dropped the Spokane Indians to five games back of the Northern Division leading Vancouver Canadians, eliminating them from the first half championship.
Both teams return to Ron Tonkin Field Friday night for game two of their five-game series. Expected pitchers are RHP Connor Grey (4-2) for the Hops and RHP Luis Lopez (0-2) for the Indians.
Hops notes: Hillsboro had four players assigned to the team from the AZL D-Backs, a rookie league affiliate.
Brian Shaffer returns to the Hops after a short stint, striking out five batters in three innings.
Breckin Williams had appeared in a Hops uniform during the 2015 season. Breckin pitched 12.1 innings over 12 games in relief. His ERA was 2.92 while striking out twelve.
Jorge Perez was signed as a free agent in 2016 out of the Dominican Republic. The centerfielder batted .269 in the AZL, smacking five doubles, two triples and a home run.
Short stop Ryan Tufts out of Virginia Tech was signed as a non-drafted free agent. In ten games, Tufts went 8 for 33 and a .242 average.
By Greg Stoker