The Tri-City Dust Devils struck out a dozen Hillsboro Hops and limited the home team to four hits in a 4-3 breezeless evening. The tight game went down to the final inning but the scoring was pretty much vacant for both teams the last two innings.
Daulton Varsho had the hit of the night when he stepped up to the plate with Dan Swain already on board, the score 3-1 with no outs. Varsho belted a deep fly ball to right field that easily cleared the fence and was stopped by the netting behind the new ribbon board installed earlier this year. The ball struck the netting 10-15 feet off the ground and would have bounced off the branches of a tree standing alongside Century Lane outside the stadium. The two-run homer tied the score one last time for the Hops.
Up unto that time, the Hops had been continuously playing catch-up with the visiting Dust Devils. Both teams scored a run in the second inning. The Devils scored two runs in the fourth when Chris Mattison tripled with Luis Almanzar on at first. A wild pitch a few minutes later brought Mattison home. The following inning was Varsho’s smashing blast.
But, the Hops did not have an answer for the third time the Devils took the lead. In the seventh, with runners at the corners, relief pitcher Kevin Ginkel (L, 0-1) uncorked a wild pitch letting Jalen Washington come home to build back the lead that would become the final score. Blake Rogers (W, 2-0) was the pitcher of record for the win. Rogers pitched two scoreless innings allowing one hit. Trevor Megill (S, 2) closed the last inning for the save, blanking the host team in hits and runs.
Daulton Varsho went 2 for 3 and smacked half of the four Hops hits. To go along with his two-run blast in the fifth, Varsho also singled in the second. Pavin Smith opened the second with a single and moved to second on an error when third baseman Luis Almanzar’s throw to first went wild. After moving to third on Dan Swain’s single, Pavin was given a free pass to home with a balk by starting pitcher Henry Henry.
An unusal feature of the night were the amount of towering pop flies in the infield or the short grass just beyond. Not one of those rocket launches came down straight confounding fielders all night. Several plays on defense found the hopeful fielder trying to settle underneath the horsehide meteor striking down from the sky only to find himself wavering with the ball as it seemingly changed course on the way down.
Hops first baseman Pavin Smith shed some light on the meteorological phenomenon.
“It’s a lot harder than it looks.” Pavin offered. Even though Pavin did not get any of the sky balls his way tonight, he offered some advice based on his experience. “Try not to commit too early and try not to over commit.” The ball usually ”comes back to the field if in foul territory.” Sage advice from a man who usually gets his pop fly.
One of the few successful grabs of the wandering sphere was by Hops catcher Daulton Varsho in the eighth inning. Dust Devil Tre Carter popped a high one between home and third. Varsho tried to settle under it towards the stands but found himself wavering back to the foul line. After starting out close to the dugout, Varsho caught the ball near the foul line. At no time did his body seem to be straight up and down, especially towards the end.
The loss didn’t hurt the Hillsboro Hops’ lead as Eugene also lost tonight. However, the Boise Hawks’ win brought them up into a two-way tie for second with Eugene two games behind the Hops with five games to go in the second half of the season.
The win helped the Tri City Dust Devils maintain their two-way tie with the Spokane Indians on top of the Northern Division.
The Dust Devils lead the five-game series 2-1. Both teams return to Ron Tonkin Field Tuesday night for game four. Expected pitchers are RHP Will Stillman (1-4) for Tri City and RHP Tyler Vail (1-3) for Hillsboro.
By Greg Stoker