Eugene Emeralds, Brandon Hughes End Hillsboro Hops Hopes, 10-4
The Hillsboro Hops’ season ended in abrupt fashion as the Eugene Emeralds slammed the door shut on their chances 10-4. The game had remained close until a six-run collapse in the ninth inning that started with the score tied. The Emeralds batted around the order and left a huge hole for the home team to climb out.
Breckin Williams (L, 0-1) stepped to the mound at the top of the ninth to take closer duties with the score tied at 4-4. It did not start well. Williams sent a pitch towards Michael Cruz’ feet forcing him to dance out of the batter’s box but not before the wild bullet hit the batter in the foot. Off to first Cruz went.
What followed was not pretty. A single and a fielder’s choice led to a double scoring Cruz. Brandon Hughes was intentionally walked to put the force out at home plate but that meant loading the bases for Chris Singleton. Chris’ double cleared the bases and suddenly, the Emeralds doubled the Hops score 8-4. Singleton was now on third as he took the extra base on the throw home.
After only a third of an inning, Williams was sent to the showers and Juan Torres came to the mound. His first batter, Zach Davis tripled home Torres’ inherited runner and Davis eventually scored on Jared Young’s sacrifice fly. Austin Filiere grounded out for the end of the inning. The fire had been put out but the Hops’ chances had been left in ashes.
The Hops did their best to keep the game within reach during the earlier innings. Eugene had taken a 3-0 lead in the second due in large part to Brandon Hughes two-run homer. The lead loomed over the home team but amazingly, the Hops tied it back up quickly in the following inning.
Three runs came back to tie the game with one swing of the bat. Daulton Varsho had tripled with one out to spark some hope for the home team fires and was joined by Bryan Araiza who walked putting runners at the corners. Up came first baseman Pavin Smith who had waited all regular season to hit his first home run in a Hops uniform. With a resounding crack, Pavin sent the ball screaming down the first base line. The only question was would the ball stay fair?
The whole stadium seemed to tilt to the fair side of the line as English was applied everywhere. It was enough to keep the ball fair by inches. Pavin had his first Hops home run and the game was tied.
Eugene took the lead again in the seventh on Jhonny Bethencourt’s double and Hugh’s RBI single. The Hops followed one inning later with a set-up from Luis Lara’s double. Dan Swain was sent in as a pinch runner, went to third on a wild pitch and came home on Drew Ellis’ ground out. The game was tied – again.
But, the six-run barrage by the visiting team was too much and was the final blow to the Hops’ chances in the playoffs. Luis Aquino (W, 1-0) was the pitcher of record for the win.
For the most part, Hops pitching did their best to keep the game within reach including striking out eleven Emerald batters. But, in the end, Eugene outplayed Hillsboro with 15 strikeouts by their own pitchers. After winning both halves of the regular season, the Hillsboro Hops were swept by the Eugene Emeralds, who had qualified for the playoffs with the second best overall record, 2-0.
By Greg Stoker