No loss is ever on one guy, but Thursday's 8-6 series finale defeat to Salem-Keizer largely came down to one play, and Hillsboro shortstop Yan Sanchez would probably like to have it back.
With the Hops trying desperately to hang around in a 4-0 game in the top half of the seventh inning, the Volcanoes had the bases loaded with two outs when first baseman Ryan Kirby hit a routine pop-up near the bag at second. Sanchez, a natural infielder who's been used all over the diamond and in the outfield early this season, struggled getting under it and by the time it hit the turf, three runs had scored and a fourth would follow soon thereafter.
"It was unfortunate," said Hops manager Shawn Roof. "He knows he missed it, but what are you going to say? If you asked him the same question he'd tell you he should've caught it."
The mistake proved especially costly due to Hillsboro scoring six runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning, but while obviously frustrated with the result, Roof was proud of his team and stopped short of putting the loss on Sanchez.
"We battled back and I thought (Mitchell) Aker really threw the ball well and probably should've gotten out of that inning," said Roof. "But it happens and they may have brought someone else in and things may have been different regardless."
For the second time in three games the Hops dug themselves into a fairly deep hole. After a one-two-three opening inning, the Volcanoes drew first blood in the second when Kirby scored from third on a Jeffry Parra infield single to make it 1-0. Salem-Keizer scored their second run in the fourth inning when, as a potential precursor to later, Sanchez dropped a pop-up off the bat of Richard Amion near his shortstop position that allowed Kirby again to score from third.
Aker pitched into a jam in the sixth before being replaced by Rafael Pujols with runners on first and third. Amion then reached on an infield single that scored – you guessed it – Kirby, then after a stolen base put runners on second and third, a wild pitch plated Manuel Geraldo to make it 4-0.
After the fateful four-run top of the seventh, Hillsboro got a Kyle Smith double sandwiched between two walks to load the bases before a wild pitch led to their first run. Then catcher Gavin Stupienski singled to right field to make it 8-3, and after a Billy Endris walk and Bryan Araiza single loaded the bases, a Eudy Ramos single, Sanchez fielder's choice, and a wild pitch to Paxton De La Garza pulled the Hops within 8-6 and gave the team and home crowd hope heading to the final two innings.
Unfortunately for the team and that home crowd, the Hops failed to get anything going in the eighth or ninth and wasted another quality outing from their bullpen, which allowed zero earned runs in three-and-a-third innings of work. A strength that comes as no surprise to Roof.
"We knew we had some veteran guys who had some good arms and could come in and pitch," said the manager. "We've fallen behind a couple times recently and they've given us some time to comeback. That's all we can ask."
Hillsboro was led by Stupienski's 1-for-4 performance with two RBI's, while Geraldo paced Salem-Keizer with a 3-for-4 performance, a run scored and one RBI.
The Hops open a three-game set with Boise tomorrow night, June 23 at 705pm at Ron Tonkin Field.