Jose Queliz Delivers Walk-Off Single to Give Hillsboro Hops Game 1 Victory, 4-3
The Hillsboro Hops and the Eugene Emeralds took the tightly contested playoff game into the tenth inning before one team could overcome the other with Hillsboro winning 4-3. Neither team could get more than a one run lead.
With one out, Mark Karaviotis smacked a sharp bouncer down the third base line and easily made it into second for a double, double-pumping his fists in the air to his teammates in the dugout. After a second strikeout of the inning by Emeralds closer Michael Rucker and an intentional walk to Luke Lowery, Jose Queliz stepped up to the plate for his game winning heroics. Queliz smacked the second line drive of the inning down the third base line. Mark Karaviotis was pumping his fists in the air again as he approached third on his way home to score the winning run.
A few of his teammates greeted him at the plate with pounding high fives but the celebration quickly swarmed to Queliz who had rounded first and was on his way to second. Luke Lowery, who had rounded second, was the first to reach the catcher as the rest of the team came to join including the pitching staff who came flying out of the bullpen. As the mass of players jumped up and down as if they were at a rock concert, the only thing jumping higher than the happy ball club were the fireworks going off behind the left field fence.
Hillsboro’s year-end All-Star Anfernee Benitez lasted through five innings and left with the score 3-2, Eugene. Anfernee started the game fully in control getting the first inning line up retired on only eight pitches. He managed to keep the Emeralds hitless until the third when Robert Garcia homered to left to tie the game at 1-1. As the innings grew, the pitch count grew ever higher. Including a fourth inning that saw Benitez throw 28 pitches, the starter had thrown 88 pitches by the end of the fifth inning.
From then on, manager Shelley Duncan used four different pitchers over the next five innings in a fashion fans had become familiar with throughout the season. The staff would combine to keep the Emeralds scoreless the rest of the way, shutting down Eugene’s batters to only one more hit in the game. Connor Grey started the relief followed by Colin Poche and Riley Smith. Curtis Taylor (W, 1-0) came on for the ninth and had to stay through the tenth until Jose Queliz ended the game and handed Taylor the win.
Eugene starter and NW League pitcher of the year Manuel Rondon also went five innings allowing two runs on four hits. But, where the Hops bullpen was able to shut the Emeralds down, the Hops batters kept nibbling. Dakota Mekkes watched the tying run cross the plate as one of his pitches bounced off his catcher’s glove and to the backstop. Michael Rucker (L, 0-1) gave up near back to back line drives down the third base line to end the game on his watch for the loss.
Luke Lowery was walked three times during the game and scored twice, with the third time ending up between second and third after Queliz smacked his game winning RBI single in the tenth. In the Eighth, Lowery was able to score from second on the passed ball by Emerald Tyler Payne. Matt McPhearson, who pinch ran for Alexis Olmeda, almost scored from first but was thrown out at the plate by just a foot or two. Quick Luke led the team with 20 stolen bases on the year, but McPhearson almost caught up to Luke by the time he crossed the plate for the tying run. The Hops would have to wait for the tenth to score the winning run.
The scoring was initiated by the Hops Luis Veras’ who smacked a solo shot over the left field fence. The Emerald’s Robert Garcia smacked an answer well over the left field fence in the following inning. After the show of power, both teams settled in for scoring the old fashion way: working your way around the bases with smart base running and opportunistic batting.
Jason Morozowski was the only Hops with more than one hit, singling in the first and seventh but never making it farther. Adam Walton had an RBI single in the fourth to tie the game. Manny Jefferson singled in the fourth and Alexis Olmeda singled in the eighth. Hillsboro was held to four hits on the night.
Eugene was limited to three hits for the game. Besides Garcia’s homer, Zack Short smacked an RBI double in the fourth scoring Wladimir Galindo who had walked.. The Emerald’s final hit was in the fifth as Short sent a single through the left side gap in the infield to become the only Emerald with more than one hit.
With the Hillsboro Hops leading the Eugene Emeralds 1-0 in the three game playoff series, both teams will move to Eugene for the second and possibly third game to decide who moves on to the second round to face the winner of the Spokane/Everett series in the north. The first game in Everett was rained out. Their series moves to Spokane on Thursday.
By Greg Stoker