Austin Shenton’s Surprise, Aquasox Stun Hillsboro Hops in Eleven Innings, 3-2
With Austin Shenton helping, the Everett Aquasox outlasted the Hillsboro Hops 3-2 in 11 Innings. Austin’s score from third base on a passed ball by the Hops’ Nick Dalesandro became the winning run in the top of the eleventh inning. Brandon McGuigan (W, 1-0) pitched the last two innings for the win.
The game started as if made of fireworks. The innings were sprinkled with as many hits as strikeouts. It was enough to keep the fans on the edge of their seats.
In the bottom of the first, Corbin Carroll led off for the Hops and smacked a triple
to the fence in right-center. His fleet feet carried him to third in the time that most people need to get to second base. Pausing at third, Corbin saw the ball playing hot potato with the infielders. That gave him the few seconds he needed to score, giving the Hops the early lead at 1-0.
In the third, the Aquasox broke through with a two-run homer by Zach DeLoach to take the lead. But, not for long. The Hops followed in the bottom of the inning with Buddy Kennedy’s RBI single bringing home Blaze Alexander to tie the game.
Throw in a double by Axel Andueza making his Hops’ debut and the bats spoke often and loud. Teasingly, runners either were stranded at third or coming across the plate for the most part. It was surprising that only four runs scored in the first three innings.
Then the scoring went flat. To start the game, scoring was quick and exciting. Then pitching and defense made those same scores rare and more precious. No one would score again until the eleventh inning.
One man’s dry spell is another man’s pitchers’ duel. After Buddy Kennedy’s RBI single in the third, the Hops did not see another hit until Ricky Martinez’ single in the ninth. That would be their last hit for the night.
The Aquasox weren’t much better. They at least singled every now and then or drew a walk but it mostly was one base runner surrounded by three outs, a third of them strikeouts. But, the reason behind all of that was that the pitchers started taking control.
Ryne Nelson, who gave up two runs on three hits in his first three innings, only gave up two hits with no runs during his last three innings. Four of his six strikeouts came in the last half of his tenure on the mound.
His counterpart, Levi Stoudt, gave up two runs on four hits during his first three innings. But, he seemed to turn the corner in the fourth. Levin only needed twelve pitches to record two strikeouts and a ground out. But, that grounder appeared to bounce off his lower arm. Levi massaged it and was allowed a few free practice pitches and then allowed to finish the inning. When it was time for him to come out of the dugout for the fifth, Fred Villareal came to the mound instead. No official word on the reasons. Fred kept the Hops hitless for three more innings.
In a game as close as the stitches on a baseball, defense did their job to keep it
that way. Double plays abounded. Diving grabs turned singles into close outs at first. Diving catches in the shallow outfield turned potential doubles into just another out. For eight innings, there were some fireworks, but the offensive flashes fizzled by the third out. The defensive flashes burned much brighter. Fastballs travelling with 96 miles per hour of heat looked like shooting stars in the night’s sky.
By the time the game went into extra innings, there was plenty of night sky. The Hops’ Joe Jones struck out his last two batters in the eleventh, The Aquasox’s Brandon McGuigan pitched no-hit ball in the last two innings of the game. Brandon sandwiched two of his own strikeouts around a fly out to center to end the game.
Austin Shenton – The Moment
But, the game cannot be won by defense alone. Sometime, you will need to score. In a game full of quick punches of the ball going everywhere and defenses clamped tighter as time went on, the winning run surprised everyone — including the runner. Austin Shenton did not score the winning run because of a sharp poke through the infield or a mighty blast into the outfield gap. Austin Shenton came home because one of the better catchers let a passed ball get by him and to the backstop.
Everyone sprung into action. Dalesandro sprinted to the backstop. Pitcher Joe Jones rushed to cover the plate. But, while the defense instantly reacted, so did Austin Shenton and he easily touched home before the ball could stop him. Game over.
The win kept the Everett Aquasox (W, 1-1) one game behind the league leaders Eugene and Tri City. The loss dropped the Hillsboro Hops (L, 1-1) into a tie with Everett for second place. Both teams meet again tomorrow night, Thursday, the 6th, for game three of the series. Currently, the six game series is tied 1-1.
Catch my weekly column every Tuesday morning. Last Tuesday, I talked about the Hops 2021 roster. We get to see plenty of familiar faces this year and meet plenty of new ones.
Catch me on Twitter (@GDStoker) during the Hops home games to get half-inning updates including scores and a feel for the game.