Big Bang 5th, Hillsboro Hops Over Eugene Emeralds, 11-5
Big Bangs for the Hops came like water to a thirsty man. A very thirsty man. It felt good to finally string some hits together with power. Tonight, they had plenty of power to spare. What proved to be the winning run came in the middle of that Big Bang. Blaze Alexander scored Cam Coursey from second with his RBI single to center field to make it 6-0. The Hops weren’t done.
Dry Spell Gone
The six game series started out with Hillsboro sweeping a double header scoring eight runs to the Ems two. Then the two-game dry spell as Eugene won the next two games with a total of 11-3. Tonight turned out to be the Hops’ Big Bang.
Twelve batters went to the plate for the Hops in the top of the fifth. Most of their damage hit the scoreboard with only one out.
Before the Big Bang…
Pitching took control of the first four innings. Connor Nurse started for the Ems. Newcomer Slade Cecconi started for the Hops. Cecconi is the 2020 draft choice for the Diamondbacks. Chosen in the CBA round between the first and second rounds. Initially, Slade was assigned to the Hops last year but the pandemic changed that. Instead, he took an assignment on May 12th of this year and made his Hops debut starting the game.
Tonight, both pitchers pitched with command and their performance could almost be identical twins in the stat book. Through the first four innings, both pitchers threw 44 pitches each. Nurse controlled the plate striking out nine Hops batters and facing the minimum twelve. Cecconi struck out five and faced one batter over the minimum.
Then everything changed. Slade was relieved by Matt Tabor and took a well deserved rest. Nurse stayed in the game and watched the wheels fall off. Four of the next five batters reached base safely. Tristan English walked and eventually scored on a bad pick off throw by Nurse. Axel Andueza and Ricky Martinez both singled. Tra Holmes cleared the bases with a shot over right field.
Nurse was done for the night. On came Jasier Herrera. With the empty bases looking like a fresh start, five of the next six batters reached base safely. Leodany Perez singled and scored on Cam Coursey’s RBI double after he stole second base. Blaze Alexander singled Coursey home with what proved to be the winning run. Tristan, who already scored this inning, singled. Finally, Buddy Kennedy cleaned the base paths again. This time with a three-run homer to left.
The dust settled and the scoreboard read Hops 9, Ems 0. Matt Tabor (W, 1-1) continued tight control over the hometown bats for two more innings, facing the minimum. Tabor was the pitcher of record in the fifth to receive the win. Connor Nurse (L, 0-2) took the loss for the Ems.
Big Bang Lite
Hops continued slamming. Top of the seventh saw Blaze Kennedy bring home Cam Coursey with a two run shot of his own to left. But, while the twelve-man, nine-run fifth went unanswered, the Ems bats broke open even if they didn’t come up with an answer… yet. Logan Wyatt tripled with one out but three more batters could not get him home. That would happen in the ninth.
Eugene sent ten men to the plate, however, it fell short. Starting with the top of the order, Patrick Bailey led off with a solo shot to right and Will Wilson made it back-to-back with his solo shot to left. Logan, who failed to score after his triple in the seventh, walked and eventually scored on a passed ball by Hops’ catcher Andueza. Finally, Sean Roby and Franklin Labour scored on Jacob Gonzalez’ RBI single.
The loss dropped the Eugene Emeralds (7-4) to two games back of the league leading Everett Aquasox. The win kept the Hillsboro Hops (5-6) four games back. Both teams meet each other for the sixth and final game of the series Sunday at 7:05 PM. The Hops currently lead three games to two.
My last week’s column on the Hops after their first week. Then look for my next column next Tuesday where I will look at their second week and the loss of Corbin Carroll to shoulder surgery.