Hops lose home opener 4-3
In a night full of fans, festivities and fireworks, it was the lack thereof in the bats of the Hillsboro Hops that led to a 4-3 defeat to the Eugene Emeralds in there 2018 home opener Wednesday, June 20, at Ron Tonkin Field.
Despite a first inning lead and a two-run second to tie the game 3-3, the Hops could muster just four hits over the final seven innings and were forced to watch the Ems spoil an otherwise successful home opener, in front of 4,332 fans on a hot and breezy Hillsboro night.
"We struck out quite a bit tonight, especially late in the game," said Hops manager Shawn Roof. "We weren't putting the ball in play, therefore weren't making them play defense. When you do that you make it pretty easy on them."
In all, the Hops struck out 14 times, left 10 men of base, and hit just .209 as a team. In turn, Eugene managed eight hits, but struck out just five times and managed a couple key "seeing-eye singles" when it mattered most.
"Kenny Hernandez had trouble finding a put-away pitch tonight," Roof said. "They got a couple bloop hits early and they took advantage of that."
Hernandez, Hillsboro's starting pitcher, threw 4 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits while striking out three and walking none.
Eugene starter, Eury Ramos, pitched four innings and allowed all three of Hillsboro's runs on five hits, while striking out four and walking one. The Ems bullpen took over in the fifth and used a combination of Jake Steffens, Mitch Stophel and Dalton Geekie to stymie the Hops, allowing just two hits before Geekie struck out the side to end it in the ninth.
Despite the loss, Roof was quick to point out the electricity and excitement of opening-night, as well as his appreciation of an always enthusiastic Ron Tonkin Field crowd.
"It was great," the manager said. "The atmosphere was unbelievable, like it always is, and I know our guys were fired up to play and we appreciate that. Unfortunately we weren't able to come up with the win."
Following a relatively quick top half of the first inning, Hillsboro put the game's first run on the board in the bottom half when Tra Holmes parlayed a walk, stolen base and errant Ramos pitch into a leisurely trot home to put the Hops up 1-0. Eugene however, responded mightily in the second when a Jonathan Sierra single, Cam Balego double, and a Rafael Mejia triple keyed a three-run inning that put the visitors up 3-1. Yet the Hops, failing to relent, tied the game in the bottom of that same inning when after a Ryan January double and subsequent Alex King single to left put runners on the corners, a Ramos wild pitch plated January, then Jorge Perez doubled to left, scoring King and tying the game 3-3.
It stayed that way until the fifth when — after a leadoff out — a couple of quick Eugene singles by Fernando Kelli and Christopher Morel put runners on first and third, running Hernandez from the game and summoning the Hops' Josh Green to the mound. Immediately a wild pitch allowed the Ems' Morel to advance to second, then a strike out put Green on the cusp of working his way out of the jam before a second wild pitch allowed Kelli to score what would ultimately be the game-winning run from third.
The Hops wouldn't get a runner past second base the remainder of the game and went quietly in the ninth when outfielder Dan Swain struck out with Alex King on first base.
The night ended with an impressive fireworks display, as lightning struck on the horizon while artificial fireworks lit up the sky beyond the left field fence.
Perez led Hillsboro hitters, going 2-for-3 with one RBI.
Eugene was led by Mejia who finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
With the loss, the third in a row, the Hops dropped to 3-3 on the year.
Hillsboro will face Eugene tonight in the second of their three game set with the Ems, before hosting a three game series with Salem-Keizer starting Friday, June 23, at 7:05 P.M. at Ron Tonkin Field.