Grand Slam by Will Wilson Removes Doubt, Eugene Ems Over Hops, 8-2
Grand Slams always answers a lot of questions. Will Wilson stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the eighth with bases loaded, two out and the game tied 2-2. The Eugene Emeralds needed one run to take the lead. Wilson gave them four with a grand slam, leaving the Hillsboro Hops an insurmountable deficit to make up. The Ems won 8-2 for their first win of the series.
Pitching Hot & Heated
Ryne Nelson started for the Hops while Seth Corry took the mound for the Ems. Both starting pitchers started with high heat dealing mid-90 fast balls down the middle and around the edges. For the most part, it worked. Speeds dipped to the lower 90’s and pitches became easier to hit a few innings later but the game still belonged to the mound. Then, a lack of control started seeping in with walks increasing and pitch counts growing larger by the fourth inning.
Amidst all of the strikes, fly balls and ground outs stood one lone batter: Buddy Kennedy. Buddy sat out a couple of games due to getting his knuckles bruised by a pitch a couple of games ago. When he stepped into the batter’s box, Buddy made up for lost time. His first pitch launched over the fence and the tight-pitched game had a quick score in the top of the second. Hops led 1-0.
That lone score stood long enough to make you wonder if it would ever have company. It eventually did but the game was half over by the time the Ems tied the score. In the bottom of the fifth, Tyler Fitzgerald led off with a single and scored on Franklin Labour’s RBI single. Game was tied for only one inning.
Bottom of the sixth, Diego Rincones made it to base due to catcher’s interference by the Hops’ catcher Axel Andueza. After a steal and a passed ball, Diego, the reigning player of the week for the Northwest League, scored easily on Tyler Fitzgerald’s RBI double.
The Grand Slam
The 2-1 lead by the Ems stood for a couple of innings until Axel Andueza’s RBI single knocked D.J. Burt home to tie the game for the last time. In a matter of minutes and, in the bottom of the eighth, Diego Rincones scored on Hops’ pitcher Blake Workman’s wild pitch. Subsequently, Simon Whiteman scored on Ismael Mungia’s sac fly and a fielding error by left fielder Leodany Perez.
But, that only set the stage for the fireworks a few minutes later. After Javeyan Williams filled the bases, Will Wilson stepped up with two outs. His grand slam sailed over the left-center field fence for a huge 8-2 lead. All that was left was for closer Solomon Bates to take over the ninth and strike out the side. End of game.
For the Ems, Solomon Bates (W, 1-0) inherited a tie game and got the win. Blake Workman (L, 0-1) allowed the go ahead run in the eighth for the loss.
With the win, the Eugene Emeralds (6-3) stayed one game behind the league leading Everett Aquasox. The loss dropped the Hillsboro Hops (4-5) to three games back of the leader. The Hops currently lead the series 2-1. Both teams will meet again Friday night in Eugene for game four of the series.
Sidenote: Tristan English returned to the Hops lineup after being a strong part of the 2019 NW League Championship team. Tristan was assigned to the Hops organization on May 12th. In 2019, he played infield, mostly at first base. Tonight, Tristan filled the DH duties. So far, the Hops uniform is the only professional uniform he has worn.
In addition, another new face is DJ Burt. The Arizona Diamondbacks signed DJ as a free agent on May 5th. Then, the Dbacks assigned him to Hillsboro on May 12th. Originally drafted in 2014 by the Kansas City Royals, this is DJ’s seventh season in the minor leagues. In 2019, he played 80 games at the AA level.
The Vancouver Canadians are currently in their first homestand of the year at Ron Tonkin Stadium. Tickets are on sale here. Click on the Hillsboro Ticket Packages in the upper left corner. You can check out the backstory in my column to find out why they are calling Hillsboro home for the time being.