Tyler Fitzgerald Grand Slam in 10th, Emeralds Leave Hops Behind 11-6
Tyler Fitzgerald wrote the perfect script with his bat. After the Hillsboro Hops tied the game to send it into extra innings, Tyler sent the Eugene Emeralds back to the top 11-6 with his two-out grand slam in the tenth.
Sean Roby Go-Ahead Run
Sean Roby was actually the go ahead run in the tenth when he started off at second base and scored off of Robert Emery’s RBI single. But, with the score 7-6 in favor of the Ems, the game was still within reach. Two batters later and the bases full, Tyler Fitzgerald put the game out of reach with his grand slam. The rest of the game was just a formality.
AJ Vukovich Plays the Odds
But, first, the Hops had to tie the game to force extra innings. They needed providence to make it happen. With one out, Hops newcomer AJ Vukovich sent a deep ball to the right-center gap. Center fielder Kwan Adkins and right fielder Armani Smith rushed to the gap. Adkins came the closest but he slightly overran the ball and it popped out of his glove for an error. Vukovich slid safely into third. Fielding error by the center fielder.
The next batter, Blaze Alexander, sent a not-so-deep ball to shallow right. Armani Smith had no trouble rushing in and catching it. But, to his surprise when he looked to throw it in, Vukovich stood halfway between third and home, daring him to throw the ball. Smith did and the catcher Robert Emory couldn’t reign it in. The back-up, pitcher Chris Wright couldn’t corral it. Vukovich touched home and the game was tied. Throwing error on the right fielder.
Sixth Inning Confusion
The biggest head scratcher had to have happened in the sixth inning with the Ems at the plate. The inning started out with Josh McMinn taking the mound on a night where it was all bullpen. Five different pitchers split duty. When it was Josh’s turn, his pitch hit Armani Smith in the left shoulder. With two more walks following, the bases were loaded. Heath Quinn came to the plate.
Quinn sent the ball towards right hoping for a sac fly but it wasn’t deep enough. Smith stayed at third as Danny Oriente’s throw easily beat him to home plate. Catcher Axel Andueza spotted Logan Wyatt too far off first. After looking Smith back to third, he tossed the ball to first baseman Andy Yerzy. Andy mistakenly thought Wyatt had not tagged first before he headed to second so he casually touched the bag with his foot thinking Wyatt was out.
But, Wyatt was not out. He had tagged first before heading to second. With Smith stuck on third and Sean Roby stuck on second, Wyatt had nowhere to go. So, he headed back to first and touched the bag without being tagged out.
Peace Conference at First Base
First base umpire Nathan Diederich called Wyatt out. Ems manager Dennis Pelfrey came out of the dugout arguing. Home plate umpire Kevin Mandzuk overruled Diederich. Hops manager Vince Harrison came out of the dugout to argue. Didn’t do any good. The runner was safe. For the record, the umpires did make the right call the second time.
This was more than just a disputed call. It was also a game of what ifs? If the first batter was not hit by a pitch, he wouldn’t have taken first base. If Smith had struck out or somehow created an out, there would be one out. Then, Quinn’s attempted sac fly would have been the second out. If Yerzy had known Logan had already tagged first and tagged the runner, it would have been a double play and the inning over.
Instead, the Ems went on to score three more runs in the inning and tie the game. Quinn’s eighth inning home run would have only made the game 5-3. No extra innings. The Hops would have won.
Either way, this was anybody’s game. It would have been Eugene’s game if two errors weren’t committed in the ninth to allow the Hops to tie the game. On the other hand, it would have been the Hops game if the sixth inning confusion hadn’t allowed the Ems to score three runs and tie the game.
Tyler Fitzgerald Hits Two of Eleven Home Runs in Two Nights
Instead, the sixth inning confusion overshadowed six home runs on a night after five other four-baggers were hit. It overshadowed Tyler Fitzgerald’s second home run of the night, a grand slam in extra innings.
The win helped the Eugene Emeralds (50-37) gain a game on Everett who lost tonight. The Ems are now four and a half games out of first. They also increased the gap between them and third place Spokane to seven and a half games.
The loss dropped the Hillsboro Hops (41-45) to eight and half games behind Eugene but remained one game behind Spokane. The loss also ended the Hops six-game winning streak.
Both teams meet Friday for game#4. The Hops lead the series 2-1. Fireworks are after the game. If you can’t make the game, you can watch it on MiLB.tv, listen on 620 AM radio or follow me on Twitter for half inning updates. You can find my Twitter handle below.
Note: the winning pitcher was Chris Wright (4-0) for the Ems with Ryan Walker (H, 6) also earning the hold. The Hops Mailon Arroyo (L, 2-2) takes the loss after giving up five runs in the tenth.