The Hillsboro Hops' winning streak ended at six as they fell to the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes on Thursday, July 25.
The 2-0 contest at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro was a relatively sleepy affair. Volcanoes pitching was good enough to keep Hillsboro off the board, if not off the basepaths. Hops pitching was good enough to keep Salem-Keizer from running up the score, but not enough to keep the visitors from scoring enough to win.
Volcanoes starting pitcher Travis Perry earned the win with six strong innings, giving up five hits and striking out five Hops.
Luis Frias, the Hops' staff ace, took the loss despite only allowing one run over five innings. He gave up five hits and two walks, striking out four, as he flashed a high-90s fastball and sharp breaking ball but often fell behind hitters early in the count.
In the fourth inning, with one out, Volcanoes first baseman Logan Wyatt drilled a Frias offering into the gap in left-center field for a double, then scored one out later on a single by catcher Brandon Martorano.
Reliever Conor Grammes gave up another run in the sixth inning, not getting much help from his batterymate, Hops catcher Daniel Wasinger, in the process. Wasinger couldn't find a pitch in the dirt in time to keep Wyatt, who had singled, from taking second base. When designated hitter Armani Smith singled to right, the throw home from Jesus Marriaga easily beat Wyatt to the plate, but Wasinger couldn't glove it cleanly and the ball squirted to the backstop as Wyatt slid in safely.
Salem-Keizer threatened again in the eighth inning, loading the bases on two walks and a single against right-hander Erin Baldwin, but Baldwin induced a groundball to shortstop from Volcanoes third baseman Beicker Mendoza. Steven Leyton flipped to second baseman Ricky Martinez, who fired on to first baseman Andy Yerzy to complete the inning-ending double play and preserve Hillsboro's two-run deficit.
On offense, the Hops were mostly moribund. They counted on big games from teenage phenom Kristian Robinson, an 18-year-old outfielder ranked by MLB.com as the Arizona Diamondbacks' fifth-best prospect, in the first two games of the series.
Robinson entered the series finale hitting 5-for-8 in the second half, which began Tuesday, July 23, when the Volcanoes came to town. But Salem-Keizer was able to effectively neutralize him on Thursday.
After flying out twice, Robinson reached base on a throwing error by Volcanoes shortstop Tyler Fitzgerald in the sixth inning, but he was caught stealing to end the inning several pitches later. He reached again on a walk in the eighth inning, loading the bases, but he was left stranded.
The eighth inning was the Hops' best chance to score in the game, with right-hander Cooper Casad flagging in his second inning of work and the top of the order managing to load the bases for Yerzy on a double by Martinez and two walks.
It was not to be. Yerzy, a star of last year's team who has struggled mightily this season but had singled earlier in the game — he finished Thursday's contest hitting .186 — struck out swinging at a breaking ball before tossing his bat down in disgust.
The most exciting play of the game might have come when Franklin Labour, the Volcanoes' left fielder — who leads the Northwest League with 14 home runs — was called out on a checked third swing in the seventh inning.
Labour, who did not appear to have gone around on the checked swing, was incensed and began to argue with home plate umpire Nick McFarland, but his manager, Mark Hallberg, charged out of the dugout and put himself in between his player and the umpire. McFarland ejected Hallberg in short order.
After being ejected, Hallberg slammed his cap to the ground and shouted at McFarland some more, having to be restrained by another coach at one point, before leaving the field as the theme music from HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" played over the stadium speakers.
Labour went 1-for-5 in the game, with the offensive heavy lifting for Salem-Keizer being supplied by Wyatt and center fielder Hunter Bishop, the San Francisco Giants' top draft pick last month. Each had two hits and a walk in the contest.
Martinez led the Hops on offense with two hits, a single and a double.
The Hops fell to 2-1 in the second half standings, and 26-15 overall.
The Volcanoes have already clinched a playoff spot by leading the Northwest League South Division in the first half. They improved to 27-14, a record that leads the league.
The Hops hit the road for a three-game series against the Boise Hawks starting Friday, July 26. They return to Ron Tonkin Field on Monday, July 29, to begin a series with the Everett AquaSox.
By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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