Austin O’Banion Drives in 6 to End Hops 7-Game Win Streak, 11-4
Sometimes, the world turns. Other times, it is the worm. After demolishing the Spokane Indians 15-0 on Friday night, the Hillsboro Hops were in turn demolished by the Indians 11-4 on Saturday. It took a major eight-run explosion in the top of the fourth to blow the barn doors wide open but the Indians made it look easy.
Sending eleven men to the plate in the inning, Spokane generated enough fire power for an ordinary series. Kobie Taylor started it with a triple to left when he bounced a single over left fielder Yan Sanchez head that ran to the warning track. Taylor came home easily on Miguel Aparicio’s RBI single to left. Tyler Ratliff walked and Melvin Novoa was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Austin O’Banion, who hit a two-run homer the previous inning, stepped up to the plate and smacked a grand slam over the left field fence.
The Indians were just getting warmed up. Matt Whatley and Cole Enright slapped back to back singles in time for Curtis Terry’s three-run blast to left center. After the smoke cleared, the signal was clear. The Indians now led an imposing 10-0 and the Hops had managed only two hits up to that point.
Hillsboro did manage a pseudo-comeback in the bottom of the seventh. With the score now 11-1, Camden Duzenack led off with a walk, moved to third on a Daulton Varsho single and easily came home on Tra’Mayne Holmes’ double. Recent acquisition Dan Swain has quickly become a nice part of the team and smacked a bases clearing double for the final score of the game.
Starting pitcher Reiver Sanmartin (W, 3-1) for the Indians mastered the Hops over the first six innings allowing one run on three hits while striking out five for the win. Samar Vivas (S, 1) finished the last three innings, allowing the Hops three-run excursion and struck out four.
Riley Smith (L, 3-3) normally gives a quality start. This was not to be. Riley was tagged for eight runs on nine hits in 3.1 innings. Kevin Ginkel came on to slow the bleeding but could not stop it as he allowed another three runs on five hits. After it was too late, Breckin Williams and Jose Martinez limited the Indians to one hit the rest of the way.
Hops bat stirred briefly for seven hits. Six of those belonged to Yan Sanchez, Tra’Mayne Holmes and Dan Swain in the Hops only multi-hit games. The only other Hops hit was Daulton Varsho’s single. Both Sanchez and Holmes doubled once. Swain turned both of his hits into doubles.
One puzzling storyline weaved its way through the game. Hops pitchers hit four Indians batters for a free pass to first. The most puzzling part was that three of those instances was to one batter: catcher Melvin Novoa. Starter Riley Smith delivered the first two free trips to first. When reliever Jose Martinez made it a triple whammy, Novoa approached the mound with arms wide as if asking: Why?
Not only did the benches clear but both bullpens as well. The crowd of players got in between the two players and stood in protection of their teammates. The buffer also helped prevent the situation from escalating. It was clear frustrations were close to boiling over but the lid was kept on the pot.
Afterwards, both umpires warned opposing coaches and remaining pitcher Martinez that anything further would not be tolerated.
The loss maintained the Hillsboro Hops (22-15) tenuous hold on first place as the Eugene Emeralds lost as well. The win kept the Spokane Indians (15-22) in pace five games behind the Northern Division leading Vancouver Canadians.
Both teams return to Ron Tonkin Field Sunday at 4:05 pm for the final game of the first half season. Hillsboro currently leads the current five game series 2-1.
With one game left and a one game lead, the Hops are still in the driver’s seat. If the Hops win on Sunday, they are the first half Southern Division Champions with a guaranteed playoff spot in September. If the Hops lose, they will need Eugene to lose as well as the Emeralds hold the tie breaker.
Hops notes: fans may remember Breckin Williams from the 2015 Hops Championship team. Williams is with the Hops to help rehabilitate his arm after Tommy John surgery.
Jose Martinez made his Hops season debut in the ninth inning in relief as he was assigned to Hillsboro earlier in the day. The RHP Dominican Republic native pitched four innings spread out over four games in relief for the AZL D-Backs prior to his assignment. Martinez was sent down to the D-Backs from Kane County for a rehab assignment. Jose also might be remembered by Hops fans from his rehab assignment with the Hops last year.
By Greg Stoker