The Hillsboro Hops fell to the Tri-City Dust Devils 5-2 in large part thanks to a four-run inning that blew the game open. The Hops tried valiantly a couple of times to inch closer but were foiled by the Dust Devil bullpen. In the end, Tri-City pitching struck out ten Hops batters for the second double digit evening in a row.
Starter Will Stillman (W, 2-4) for the visitors took the mound and claimed control for five innings of six hit, two-run mastery for the win. Stillman threw over a hundred pitches (101) with 60% of them for strikes. Evan Miller followed with two innings of no-hit relief. Eliot Ashbeck (S, 1) closed the final two innings blanking the Hops on two hits for the save.
Hops bats struck for seven hits including Tim Susnara’s double in the eighth and single in the third. Tim knocked in both Hillsboro runs on the night with his single scoring both Camden Duzenack and Ryan Grotjohn. Luis Lara had the other double to account for the two extra-base hits for the Hops.
Hops starter Tyler Vail (L, 1-4) started out strong in the first inning but soon was rocked for five runs on six hits with four of them coming in the third inning. It was enough to chase him with one out and two runners on base. Both inherited runners would score.
In came Juan Torres to help the Hops out of a jam. After forcing Jalen Washington into a fielder’s choice, Washington was thrown out at home when Tyler Benson singled. Torres lasted two more innings of no hit relief. It was the beginning of an amazing stint of the Hops’ bullpen.
Tucker Ward pitched one inning of no-hit ball. Jordan Watson followed with another inning of no hits. Breckin Williams closed out the last two innings of no hit ball while striking out four of his six batters.
After the game, I had to ask Tucker why only one inning per pitcher when the pitcher was at the top of his game? He replied that both he and Jordan Watson were “coming off of Tommy John surgery. I was pitching here last year when I went down. I rehabbed down in Arizona and just came back this month.” Tucker added that they (Hillsboro) were taking the “safe route”. The long term was more important that the now.
Now the guys come back tomorrow and will have to put the difficult loss behind them. “The guys pitched great.” Tucker said. “(Now we have to) erase this and have a quick turnaround.”
Both teams will come back Wednesday evening for the fifth and final game of the series. The Dust Devils lead 3-1.
Tonight’s loss cut the Hillsboro Hops (17-17) lead over the Boise Hawks to one game for the second half division crown with four games to go. The Hawks are on a three-game winning streak. The win helped the Tri City Dust Devils (20-14) keep pace with the Spokane Indians tied on top of the Northern Division.
Hops notes: In a fun conversation with Tim Susnara after the game, I had to ask him about the duck call just before he crunched a ground rule double over the left field fence near the foul line. He smiled, “I hear it almost every time. This is a great crowd. It helps me get ready whenever I hear that or ‘Go Ducks’. This a friendly atmosphere.”
I also had to ask him about playing on the road in Eugene as a Hops after four years of playing there as a Duck. He admitted “It felt strange the first time.” But, he was exposed to it during his senior year. Former Hop Mark Karaviotis, who was with the Hops in 2016, also played for the Ducks and the former teammates (Austin Grebeck of the current Everett Aquasox among others) would get together after the game whenever the Hops would play in Eugene. “My first time back, I got to be the beer batter.” I had not heard that term outside of the kitchen so I asked what that was. “Whenever you strike out, you pay for the $3 beers afterwards.” He laughed.
Mark is now playing for the Visalia Rawhide and was recently activated from the seven-day disabled list.
By Greg Stoker