Although the Hillsboro Hops finished the first half of the Northwest League season with a 24-14 record and on a four-game winning streak, they head into the second half still in search of a playoff berth.
The Hops took four of six from the Eugene Emeralds, but as the red-hot Salem-Keizer Volcanoes took care of business in Boise, the Hops could only watch as their South Division rivals clinched the best record for the first half on Sunday, July 21.
That night marked the third straight win for the Hops, who beat Eugene 5-2, but with Salem-Keizer's 4-3 win at Boise — their sixth in a row — the Hops were eliminated from the first-half championship race.
The Hops won again Monday, July 22, shutting out Eugene 4-0, but that victory won't factor into the second-half standings because it was the last game of the first half.
Under Northwest League rules, the team with the best record in each division in each half of the season advances to the playoffs. If the same team wins both halves, the team with the next-best second-half winning percentage earns a playoff spot.
The Hops haven't missed the playoffs since 2013, their inaugural season after relocating from Yakima, Wash.
With a talented squad led by well-regarded prospects like 18-year-old outfielder Kristian Robinson and 21-year-old right-handed starting pitcher Luis Frias, Hillsboro will be gunning for a playoff berth in the second half, which begins Tuesday, July 23.
The Hops won't have to wait to take on their mid-Valley rivals. They host the Volcanoes for three games starting Tuesday before traveling for three against the Boise Hawks starting Friday, July 26. The Hops return home Monday, July 29, to start a series against the Everett AquaSox.
First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. in Tuesday's game at Ron Tonkin Field.
By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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