Hillsboro finishes with series win over Vancouver
The Hillsboro Hops finished the year with a mixed bag of results this past week, taking four of their five games with the Vancouver Canadians.
After winning each of the first four games of the scheduled six-game series with their 2021 stadium-mates and watching Saturday's fifth game be cancelled due to rain, the Hops dropped the series — and season — finale 8-2 Sunday, Sept. 19.
Shumpei Yoshikawa struck out nine while flashing an excellent curveball. But style points weren't enough for the Hops to overcome a stalwart hitting performance by the Canadians, who exploded in the fifth inning for five runs on two walks, two singles, a double and an error to bury the hometown Hops.
While it was a thin crowd for the Hillsboro finale — with the Canadians playing as the "home" team — the Hops recorded the league's second-highest attendance this year, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
Ron Tonkin Field was tested this year not just by the longer season tied to the team's jump to Minor League Baseball's High-A level, but also by hosting the Canadians this season. Unable to play in Vancouver, British Columbia, due to travel restrictions between the United States and Canada, the Canadians used Ron Tonkin Field as their home base all year — meaning they played home games while the Hops were out of town, and vice versa, and the teams played variously as the "home" and "visiting" squads when they played each other at the Tonk.
Hops manager Vince Harrison has already retreated for the offseason, but he expressed his gratitude for the year that was, along with the players he got to coach and the fans for which he got to do so in front of.
"I had a great time there," the manager said from his hometown of Cincinnati on Monday, Sept. 20. "I wish could've won a bit more, but we had some great players come through there this season and good guys to work with."
The season started somewhat depressingly when one of the Hops' brightest prospects, Corbin Carroll, was lost for the remainder of the year due to a shoulder injury.
But since then, the Hops have seen a couple handfuls of players move to Double-A, Triple-A and even the major leagues.
During the Sunday, Sept. 19, game at Ron Tonkin Field, Hops Opening Day starter Luis Frías made his debut for the Arizona Diamondbacks against the Houston Astros, throwing two-thirds of an inning in relief. It's the first time a prospect has started the year on the Hops roster and reached the major leagues the same season.
Harrison coached Frías, 23, in Kane County in 2019 and for the first part of this season in Hillsboro — the Dominican made two starts for the Hops before being promoted to Double-A Amarillo — so seeing his meteoric rise this summer has been fun for the 41-year-old skipper.
"It's been cool, and I'm happy to see him have success," Harrison said. "He actually gave me a book bag when he left here, and I've been using it ever since."
Before leaving for the offseason, Harrison was able to promote a final player from this year's squad, sending 25-year-old pitcher Justin Vernia to Triple-A Reno.
Vernia last pitched for the Hops Sept. 14 and dazzled, allowing one earned run on four hits while striking out six and walking one.
Harrison said Vernia's recent turnaround can mostly be attributed to his willingness to adjust his style.
"He made a conscious choice to start pitching at the top of the zone," Harrison said of Vernia. "When he did that he actually started to produce some pretty good numbers. So, it was cool to see him move up."
Now, with the 2021 season in the rear-view mirror, what's on Harrison's agenda? Spending time with his family, of course, but beyond that, he said he'll just enjoy being home for the winter and will look forward to another go at it next spring.
"This time of year (winter) is about making up for lost time," he said. "Then it's back to it in the spring."
Final High-A West Standings
Hillsboro 7, Vanouver 4
Hillsboro 3, Vancouver 2
Hillsboro 7, Vancouver 3
Hillsboro 4, Vancouver 2
Vancouver 8, Hillsboro 2
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