Hops Weekly: Hillsboro earns first series win
It took a bit longer than expected, but the Hops got their first series win of the season by defeating the then-first-place Everett AquaSox 5-3 Sunday, June 6, taking three of the series' five games.
With the win, Hillsboro improved to 13-16 on the season. The Hops were set to return home to face last-place Tri-City in a six-game series beginning Tuesday, June 8, at Ron Tonkin Field.
The series with Everett was cut short following Saturday's contest being rained out, and the subsequent makeup game being cancelled due to weather as part of a planned doubleheader Sunday afternoon.
Hops manager Vince Harrison was pleased to be back in Hillsboro after two straight weeks on the road, but more so pleased with notching the team's first series win of the season.
"That was huge, especially considering that was a good-hitting team with some good arms," Harrison said. "We took our lumps, but we also took advantage of some opportunities. I've preached to the guys all year that in these six-game series, you have to take things one day at a time, and when you get deeper into the series, you need to realize what we're playing for — which is a chance to win the series."
In the series opener, the AquaSox posted a 16-2 win that included 20 hits and six home runs — two of which came off the bat of Everett second baseman Kaden Polcovich, who finished with five homers in the series. Harrison applauded the home team's effort, but he was more impressed with his team's response in a 6-2 win 24 hours later. That contest was capped by a Tra Holmes two-run sixth-inning base hit that ended up being the game-winner.
"Going there that first day and really getting punched in the mouth, it could've been a long week," Harrison said. "But the guys definitely rebounded well."
Harrison was especially happy for Holmes, who's gone 3-for-7 in his last two games after a rough start to the year at the plate.
"That guy's a wizard in the field, but early on, he just hasn't been able to get going," Harrison said. "Sometimes guys get caught in between being passive and being aggressive, but there he found a way to calm himself in that big situation and get that big hit up the middle."
The manager said it's not uncommon for guys to start slow, and Holmes has had a history of slow starts. But Harrison was confident that the center fielder would get it figured out, and he said he wouldn't be surprised to see it start soon.
"I had Tra in 2019, and he was a guy that kind of started out slow, and then right around June/July started figuring it out," Harrison said. "I think it's just a matter of him trusting his approach. We've seen flashes of it out there this year, so we'll just keep encouraging him to trust his approach and hopefully watch him take off."
Someone who is taking off is pitcher Ryne Nelson. The former second-round pick from the University of Oregon threw 5 2/3 innings in the 6-2 win, allowing just two runs on four hits, while striking out 10 and walking one. It was the second straight impressive outing for Nelson, and one that has definitely caught the eye of Harrison and his coaching staff.
"I think he's shown that he can separate himself," Harrison said. "His ability to command pitches, trust the scouting report and pitch to it, and be able to adjust during the game has been really fun to watch. He's not a real talkative guy, but the guys on the team love him, and he's been a delight to work with."
Tri-City comes to Hillsboro with a 10-20 record, and while Harrison said it's certainly an opportunity for the Hops to build some momentum on the heels of their first series win, the Dust Devils offer a far greater challenge than their record might suggest.
"They've dealt with some injuries to some pretty key players, and we were able to take advantage of that the last time we played them," he said. "But they've got some guys who can do some damage, and they're a scrappy team. We do have some momentum, though, and hopefully we can carry that into this next series."
Last week's scores:
Everett 16, Hillsboro 2
Hillsboro 6, Everett 2
Hillsboro 7, Everett 2
Everett 13, Hillsboro 2
Hillsboro 5, Everett 3
1B Spencer Brickhouse — hitting .400 with two homeruns and two stolen bases in his last six games, and is currently riding a 10-game hitting streak.
OF Tra Holmes — was 3-for-7 in his last two games, including a two-run game-winning hit in the Hops' win over Everett June 2.
SP Ryne Nelson — is 2-0 and has allowed just two earned runs in 12 1/3 innings pitched over his last two starts, while striking out 17 and walking just a single batter.
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