Hops can't make it another walkoff
Facing the second-place Boise Hawks on Monday night, July 16, the Hillsboro Hops didn't quite have the juice to do what they'd done to the visiting Tri-City Dust Devils two times in the past week.
Hawks southpaw Hunter Williams converted his first save opportunity of the season, as after allowing a two-out single up the middle to center fielder Jake McCarthy, he struck out switch-hitting first baseman Francis Martinez to seal a 3-2 win for the road team in the bottom of the ninth inning at Ron Tonkin Field.Boise outhit the Hops, who were held hitless by Hawks starter Javier Medina over two innings and only notched their first hits in the fourth inning, in Alec Byrd's second inning of work. The Hawks tallied 11 hits to seven for the home team. Byrd earned the win, allowing one run over four strong innings.
Wearing the crimson uniforms of the 1970s minor league Portland Mavericks, the Hops got on the board first, as left fielder Tra Holmes manufactured a run by walking, stealing second and third base in quick succession, and strolling home on a sacrifice fly by shortstop Jose Caballero.
Hops starter Ryan Weiss struck out three and allowed just one hit, a double, in two innings of work. But Kenny Hernandez didn't fare as well, getting knocked around for nine hits and giving up three runs over five innings. Kai-Wei Lin duplicated Weiss' statline as Hillsboro's third and final pitcher of the night. No Hillsboro pitcher issued a walk in the ballgame.
The big blow came on a home run by Hawks left fielder Luke Morgan in the fourth inning. What looked like an easy flyball off the bat just kept on going, traveling 336 feet and just sneaking over the left field wall to put two quick runs on the board for Boise.
The Hops rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI double by third baseman Joey Rose, which just eluded Morgan's outstretched glove. A strong throw back in by center fielder Matt Hearn forced Hops catcher Andy Yerzy to hold up at third base rather than advancing from first to home, keeping the game tied.
The game did not stay tied for long. Hearn singled off Hernandez, stole second base and scored on a single by Boise first baseman Luis Castro in the fifth.
The Hops had a great chance to level the game in the bottom of the fifth inning after Holmes hit a one-out infield single, then advanced all the way to third as Boise second baseman Jeff Bohling's throw went wild, then Boise third baseman Danny Edgeworth could not cleanly pick a throw that looked like it would have beaten Holmes to the bag.
Holmes' aggressiveness paid off on that play, but it failed him in the next one, as he took off after an infield single by Hops second baseman Keshawn Lynch was misplayed — not by enough, as Hawks shortstop Terrin Vavra was able to recover and sling the ball to catcher Hidekel Gonzalez in time to catch Holmes in a rundown between third and home. Holmes was called out by home plate umpire Andrew Clark for stepping out of the baseline while attempting to avoid Gonzalez's tag, squelching the possible rally.
Hearn continued to show why he is the leading hitter in the Northwest League, as in addition to his strong defensive play in the fourth inning and his go-ahead run, he went 3-for-4 in the game to raise his batting average to .406. He stole second base once in two attempts.
Gonzalez also went 3-for-4 in the game for Boise.
Caballero and Lynch had two hits apiece in the contest, the only Hillsboro players with multi-hit games Monday.
Hillsboro fell to 21-10 with the loss, still tops in the Northwest League. Boise gained a game on Hillsboro in the NWL South, improving to 18-13.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with photos and additional game details.
By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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