Hops recap: Hillsboro closes week winning four of last five
It started rough, but thankfully for Hops fans, the week ended in a smooth fashion.
After losing the last of a three-game set with Everett, along with the first of a three-gamer with Boise, Hillsboro managed to win four of their last five games, staking their claim to two straight series and remaining in first place in the NWL South Division standings, a game ahead of second-place Eugene.
It's been a bit of a struggle in recent weeks, primarily due to organizational shuffling that saw the Hops promote a number of their premiere players, including Kristian Robinson and standout pitcher Luis Frias.
"We've had to recalibrate a little bit with some new faces coming into the dugout," Hops President and General Manager K.L. Wombacher said following their 6-4 win over Tri-City on Aug. 19. "This is the youngest team we've had for sure, so wins like this are really important where we get an early lead, we had some adversity, but then we can really hold on and shut the door.
"Building that confidence for these guys, for these young players, is what's going to be really important."
Robinson was batting .319 with nine home runs before his promotion to Kane County, while Frias was scorching hot on the mound, leaving Hillsboro with a 1.99 ERA in 10 starts, striking out 72 while walking just 17. The 21-year-old from the Dominican Republic has continued his quality work in Kane County, posting a 2-1 record with a 2.81 ERA, while striking out 17 and walking four in three starts for the Cougars.
Despite the loss of players like Robinson and Frias, amongst a handful of others promoted over the last month, Wombacher has faith the remaining players can continue the Hops' winning ways, hopefully back to the NWL playoffs.
"These guys want to win, and it's cool when I come into the dugout after the game and everyone already knows that Eugene lost," he said. "So they're scoreboard-watching just like we are."
And what feeds that optimism regarding the team and its prospects going forward? A sense of pride Wombacher feels is unique both to the organization and the city in which it dwells.
"I mean, we care so much about these kids while they're here," Wombacher said. "They play hard for us every night. They play hard for this community. This is such a different market than a lot of minor league markets. I think our players care a lot more here, and we in turn care a lot more for them than maybe other teams might care for their players."
Now the Hops hit the road for seven straight games, including three in Eugene beginning Tuesday, Aug. 20, and ending with four in Spokane, Aug. 23-26 before returning for three home games against Boise Aug. 28-30.
Here's a recap of the week that was for the Hillsboro Hops:
Aug. 13 — Everett 6, Hillsboro 4
Hillsboro's post-all-star-break woes continued as the road Hops dropped their fifth of six games and their second series defeat since the all-star break ended Aug.8.
The AquaSox score four first-inning runs off of Arizona Diamondbacks first round pick Drey Jameson, three of which came on a three-run homer by Everett's Robert Perez.
The Hops came back with two of their own in the second, and after a third run in the seventh, tied the game in the top of the ninth on a Joe Gillette home run. Not to be denied, the AquaSox finished Hillsboro off in the bottom half of the inning when following a Patrick Frick two-out single, Trent Tingelstad walked things off with a two-run round-tripper to end the game and send the Hops packing after a 1-5 road trip.
Jameson threw just one inning, allowing four runs on four hits.
Gillette was one of four Hops with hits on the night, going 2-for-4 with an RBI and run scored. The home run was Gillette's second of the season.
Aug. 14 —Boise 2, Hillsboro 1
The Hops lost their third straight and sixth of their last seven despite a strong performance from a strong outing from second round pick Ryne Nelson out of the University of Oregon.
Nelson allowed no earned runs on two hits over his three innings of work, striking out six and walking none. Despite Nelson's heroics, along with reliever Wilfrey Cruz — who spelled Nelson and pitched three scoreless innings of his own — the Hawks managed to scratch across a run in both the seventh and eighth innings to break a 1-1 tie and cruise to victory.
Hillsboro managed just five hits in the game, yet held on to a one-run lead entering the seventh inning thanks to a Jeffri Ocando wild pitch that plated Corbin Carroll to put the Hops ahead 1-0. Boise tied it on a Joe Aeilts RBI single in the seventh, then took the lead for good when Tyler Plantier singled home Yorvis Torrealba in the eighth.
Torrealba led the Hawks with three hits on the night, while three other Boise starters, Aeilts, Plantie, and Ezequiel Tovar tallied two apiece.
Nelson threw his second straight scoreless outing and lowered his season ERA to 1.54.
Aug. 15 — Hillsboro 6, Boise 0
Hillsboro mercifully ended their three-game losing streak and did so in fine fashion, shutting out the Hawks in front of 3,000 of the Hops' finest fans on a picture perfect night at Ron Tonkin Field.
Conor Grammes started the game on the mound for the Hops, then watched as Marcos Tineo, Ethan Larrison and Liu Fuenmayor held the visiting Hawks to just five hits en route to victory.
The Hops jumped on Boise early, getting a run in the first inning on a Tyler Plantier throwing error, then plating three runs in the second thanks to a Ryan January two-run double and a Ricky Martinez single that scored January. Hillsboro got two more runs in the seventh on hits by Corbin Carroll and Dominic Canzone, but it was the pitching on this night that lit up the hometown marquee.
Tineo got the win after spelling Conor Grammes in the third, going four innings and allowing just four hits while striking out four. From there it was Larrison and Fuenmayor who finished things off, throwing the last three innings, disallowing a hit while striking out two and walking none.
Offensively the Hops were led by infielder Ricky Martinez, who tallied three hits, an RBI and a run scored. Not to be forgotten, both Carroll and Canzone notched two hits apiece.
It was Martinez's seventh hit in his last six games, and his tenth hit in his last 10 games.
Aug. 16 — Hillsboro 2, Boise 1
After losing three straight, the Hops won their second consecutive game thanks to another strong outing on the mound, this time by first-year pro Tyler Holton from Florida State.
Holton threw five innings, allowing just two hits while striking out nine Boise hitters. It was the second straight dominating performance for Holton, who over his last 10 innings has allowed no runs on just three hits, while striking out a whopping 17 batters and walking none.
In addition to Holton, Hillsboro pitchers Nick Snyder, Mailon Arroyo and Eduardo Herrera held Hawks hitters scoreless over the final four innings, allowing no hits while striking out seven.
Offensively, the Hops got on the board first on a third-inning RBI double by Daniel Wasinger. Boise tied things in the fourth on a ground-rule double to right field by Trey Jacobs, but Hillsboro took back the lead for good an inning later when Jorge Barrosa singled home Ricky Martinez on a line drive to left.
Barrosa led the Hops with three hits and two RBIs, while Wasinger tallied two hits of his own.
Aug. 17 — Tri-City 2, Hillsboro 0
So much for the win streak.
After winning two straight, Hillsboro went cold at the plate en route to a shutout defeat in the first of a three-game set with the Dust Devils at Ron Tonkin Field.
Tri-City got solo shots from both Jack Stronach and Matthew Acosta, then watched as the Dust Devils' Nick Thwaits, Starln Cordero and Dominic DiSabatino held the Hops to just six hits over nine innings, striking out nine Hillsboro batters while walking three.
Stronach went deep in the fourth inning off of Hillsboro starter Deyni Olivero, then Acosta followed him with a round-tripper of his own in the sixth off of Stevens to end the scoring and the Hops' hopes.
Olivero took the loss despite allowing just three hits over four innings. The 21-year-old is 7-2 this season in Hillsboro, with a 1.81 ERA in 12 games of work.
Thwaits got the win for Tri-City, dominating the Hops by allowing just three hits and striking out six in six innings of work.
Eddie Hernandez led the Hops offensively, going 2-for-4, raising his season average to .273. Corbin Carroll also tallied a hit, raising his season average to .324.
Aug. 18 — Hillsboro 9, Tri-City 1
The Hops got their third win in four days, thanks to help from both the offense and pitching staff.
Hillsboro tallied 10 hits and got four runs in the second inning, two in the third and three more in the fourth before turning their nine-run lead over to what would prove to be a more-than-capable pitching staff.
The foursome of Drey Jameson, Cody Reed, Erin Baldwin and Jake Polancic combined to allow seven Dust Devils hits while striking out eight and walking two. Jameson, coming off a difficult outing in which he allowed four first-inning runs in his last start, threw a pair of two-hit innings to start the game, striking out three and walking one. From there, Reed threw two one-hit innings, Baldwin threw four two-hit innings and Polancic finished things in the ninth despite allowing Tri-City's only run on a Jason Pineda RBI triple.
At the plate, Hillsboro was led by Liover Peguero, Andy Yerzy and Dominic Canzone, who combined to go 6-for-12 with seven RBIs and four runs scored, including Canzone's first home run as a Hillsboro Hop, a three-run shot to right field in the second inning.
With the win, the Hops improved to 14-10 and stayed tied atop the NWL South Division second-half standings with Eugene.
Aug. 19 — Hillsboro 6, Tri-City 4
Hillsboro jumped on the visiting Dust Devils early and managed to hold on for an important win in the series finale.
Right-hander Jason Reynolds was chased in the second inning after giving up six runs. While Tri-City relief pitching was able to hold the Hops right there, the Dust Devils' offense simply couldn't string together baserunners.
First baseman Andy Yerzy ripped a two-run single up the right field line, left fielder Dom Canzone singled up the middle to drive in a third run and designated hitter Eddie Hernandez missed a home run to the deepest part of the yard by feet and had to settled for a two-run triple. All of that scoring happened in the first inning to give the Hops a big early advantage, and Hillsboro added a sixth run when second baseman Ricky Martinez doubled and scored on right fielder Jesus Marriaga's blooper before Reynolds could record an out in the second.
The Dust Devils chipped away, working third baseman Tristin English on three difficult throws across the infield in the third inning and finally getting a run in from third base as English sprayed one wide off of Yerzy at first. Designated hitter Sean Guilbe hit a sacrifice fly out to the warning track in center field in the sixth inning to trim the Hops' lead to four, then worked a bases-loaded walk in the eighth inning to narrow it to three. First baseman Nick Gatewood hit a sacrifice fly of his own to make it a 6-4 ballgame. That was as close as they'd come.
Former University of Oregon right-handed pitcher Ryne Nelson started the game for Hillsboro. Although his command was uncharacteristically shaky — he walked three batters — he contributed two scoreless innings before giving way to Wilfry Cruz, who allowed two runs, one of them earned, over four innings and received credit for the win.
The Hops welcomed back 2017 All-Star shortstop Yan Sanchez, since converted into a relief pitcher, for his Hillsboro debut on the mound in the eighth inning. However, Sanchez was shaky, giving up two runs on two hits and a walk before Eduardo Herrera entered the game for a five-out save.
Reynolds was saddled with the loss for Tri-City, giving up six runs on six hits. Three Dust Devils relievers combined to allow no runs on only two hits for the rest of the game.
The win for Hillsboro was especially meaningful, as the Spokane Indians rallied from two runs down in the ninth inning to walk off the Eugene Emeralds, the Hops' next opponent and closest rival for the division lead. With Eugene losing and Hillsboro winning Monday, the Hops entered play Tuesday, Aug. 20, in sole command of first place in the South Division — with a sixth consecutive playoff berth at stake.
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