Healthy Hops take four-of-six from Canadians
It was a good week for the Hops.
After dropping all five games to Everett with a skeleton crew due to a COVID outbreak a week prior, Hillsboro righted the ship this past week, taking four of six from the visiting Vancouver Canadians.
With the win the Hops moved to 21-20 on the season and to within two games of first-place Spokane.
Hillsboro was without four players and three coaches two weeks ago, but all returned this past week and Hops manager Vince Harrison—who was one of the coaches who tested positive—said it was refreshing to be and see his full compliment of players and staff back in action.
"It was tough physically and mentally with people coming in and out of town to fill-in to keep the ship together while we were trying to get the pieces back," Harrison said. "But I think it all worked out well, and it was good experience for guys to start to realize some of the things we can do collectively and individually to be in better positions to win games."
It worked over the first half of the week as the Hops managed to put the first three games of the series in the win column.
The team is still struggling mightily at the plate, hitting just .190 as a team this past week and continuing to be just above the Mendoza Line (.200) at .208 on the season. Harrison said that despite their offensive woes, they're managing wins—which he said is encouraging.
That very thing happened in Game-1 of the series when Hillsboro started the bottom half of the ninth inning trailing 2-0 and with just three hits in the game. But Danny Oriente walked to start the inning, Roby Enriquest was hit by a pitch, and Caleb Roberts walked to load the bases, then Tim Tawa made it all count with a double off the wall in centerfield, plating all three baserunners and ending the game.
The walk-off win was the seventh of the season for Hillsboro at Ron Tonkin Field, four of which have come at the expense of the Canadians.
Harrison said walk-offs never get old, and that there's something about them that speaks to the best parts of the game.
"Walk-offs are just fun," the manager said. "It seems like that's just the best way to describe it because you just see a different energy. Probably because it's something that doesn't happen every day."
While the bats remain cold, Hillsboro's pitching was dazzling at times, with John Carver, Kenny Hernandez, Jamison Hill and Luke Albright all allowing just a run or less in their starts against Vancouver. But it was Kyle Backhus' relief effort in Thursday's game that Harrison enjoyed most.
Harrison said that Backhus has been through a lot in his relatively short professional career but has accepted the challenge at every turn. It's that approach that had the manager rooting for the second-year pro from Sam Houston State and enjoying the raucous celebration following his save last Thursday night.
"Watching him kind of accept a new role was probably one of the coolest things I saw this week," "The fact that he kind of looked in the mirror and realized, 'man, I'm in a different spot than I was this time last year because honestly, this time last year he probably didn't even know if pro ball was in the works for him. Now, he's pitching these big moments and having these moments that he'll never forget. I'm just happy to see him get that opportunity."
Another Hops player who made the most of his week was 24-year-old first baseman Spencer Brickhouse. The third-year pro who's batting just .208 thus far his season, finished the week 6-for-15 with 6 RBI and two home runs.
Harrison said Brickhouse has been faced with a little adversity early this season but added that he's never surprised when the 6-foot-4 infielder turns things on.
"He's been dealing with some injuries and missed a lot of spring training," Harrison said. "But that's one of the things about 'Brick,' he's always got the potential to hit the ball out of the yard and it was cool to see him get a couple of big hits this week."
Hillsboro will travel to Tri-Cities this week for six game with the last place Dust Devils.
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