Hops return from break, take two-of-three from Dust Devils
With the All-Star break behind them, the Hillsboro Hops used an infusion of fresh talent to start the post-break stretch with a series win over visiting Tri-City.
Five fresh players — including 2021 first-round selection Jordan Lawlar — helped lead the home Hops to two wins in three days against the Dust Devils, with only a heartbreaking 3-2 second-game defeat keeping them from a sweep.
Hillsboro won Game 1 of the three-game set 6-1 Friday, July 22, behind a combined two-hitter by four Hops pitchers.
Starter Luke Albright allowed one earned run on a single hit in five innings of work, then watched as relievers Marcos Tineo, Andrew Saalfrank and Junior Mieses combined to allow one hit while striking out five over the game's final four innings.
Game 2 went equally well on the mound, as starter Ross Carver allowed one earned run on four hits while striking out 10 in seven innings of work, but it painfully turned when Tri-City plated a run in the eighth to tie the game, then scored the eventual game-winner in the top of the 10th inning when the Dust Devils' Kyle Lovelace scored on a throwing error by Lawlar.
Lawlar, however, redeemed himself in Sunday's 14-5 series finale win, going 3-for-5. He earned his stripes at the plate over the course of the series, finishing 6-for-14 with four doubles and an RBI.
Hops manager Vince Harrison, who has been on a leave of absence visiting family for the past week but has still been monitoring the team from a distance, said the infusion of talent like Lawlar and the other four players who joined the team last week (Justin Martinez, Wilderd Patiño, Deyvison De Los Santos and Mieses) may be just what the doctor ordered for a group that had fallen flat prior to last week's All-Star break.
"When new guys come in, they've got a chance to compete and go battle," Harrison said. "That coupled with the guys who've been around most of the summer, having that motivation of playing against some of these teams who've gotten the best of us, could be a good combination."
Hillsboro had lost six straight going into the break, and Harrison said following the six-game sweep at the hands of Vancouver prior to the Hops' time off, that he'd noticed a lapse in focus — and addressed it with the team.
While on leave, the manager said he was in communication with his assistants and that the word was that the vibe in the clubhouse was good. Now, on the heels of taking two-of-three from Tri-City, Harrison feels the team — which sat 6.5 games behind first-place Vancouver as of the start of this week — is ready to group together some wins and chase a potential postseason bid.
"I plan to meet with the team tomorrow (July 26) shortly before our bus ride to Eugene, and go over a few things," the manager said. "I'm excited and I think it's a challenge, but we've got everything in front of us."
In addition to Lawler's hot week, fellow newcomer Patiño also opened eyes against the Dust Devils, going 5-for-12 with a home run and four RBI in three games.
Also, Harrison said De Los Santos has been exceptional in his brief time in Hillsboro. The 19-year-old, who batted .329 with 12 home runs in Low-A Visalia this season, brings unprecedented power to a team that could certainly use a spark.
"His ability to run and play center field has always been there, but now I think you're starting to see the bat catch up," Harrison said. "He's definitely an intriguing prospect and brings a lot of positive energy."
Following the game Sunday, July 24, Carver and Saalfrank were both promoted to Double-A Amarillo.
Hillsboro's six-game series with the Eugene Emeralds begins with a 6:35 p.m. game Tuesday, July 26.
Checking in on former Hops elsewhere in the Diamondbacks organization: West Linn High School graduate Tim Tawa is hitting .186 with two home runs in 22 games for Double-A Amarillo; Tristin English is hitting .288 with three home runs for Amarillo; and Corbin Carroll is hitting .250 with two home runs for Triple-A Reno.
Last week's results:
Hillsboro 6, Tri-City 1
Tri-City 3, Hillsboro 2
Hillsboro 14, Tri-City 5
NWL Second Half Standings
2021 first-round pick Jordan Lawlar joined the Hops this past week and promptly went 6-for-14 with four doubles and an RBIs over three games.
After batting .290 in Visalia, 21-year-old Wilderd Patiño was 5-for-12 with a home run and four RBIs in three games versus Tri-City.
Starting pitcher Ross Carver allowed one earned run on four hits while striking out 10 over seven innings of work in a tough 3-2 loss to Tri-City July 23.
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