Hops ride five game win streak to first place
The hits just keep on coming.
Hillsboro's Hops dominated the Spokane Indians to the tune of 6-0 Sunday afternoon, July 1, tallying their fifth consecutive win and marking their seventh victory in eight tries. With the win, the home Hops clinched their third consecutive series triumph and fourth in five attempts this year.
First-year professional Matt Tabor had his best outing yet as a pro, throwing five scoreless innings while allowing just four hits, striking out three and walking none.
Offensively, the Hops continued their recent run of success, totaling seven hits, including two home runs — the first of which was a 442-foot bomb off the bat of first baseman Francis Martinez that sailed over the right-field netting and onto Century Boulevard, bouncing into Hondo Dog Park across the street.
"The guys are putting in a lot of work both in and out of the cage," said Hillsboro manager Shawn Roof. "Micah Franklin, our hitting coach, has done a great job with them and has them working every day and keeps pumping them with a lot of confidence, and it's been fun to see them play."
Hillsboro scored two runs in the first inning Sunday, then one in the second and three in the third. Tabor and the rest of the Hops pitching staff took it from there, allowing just one hit over the final four innings.
"It was a team win," said Roof. "We were able to jump on them early and the pitching staff put up a bunch of zeros. We were aggressive early, they came out ready to play and they finished the job."
In the first inning, Jorge Perez hit a ground-rule double to right center and then stole third, and after an Andy Yerzy base on balls, Joey Rose tripled into the left-field corner to put the Hops up 2-0.
Martinez made it 3-0 in the second with his mammoth homer, then in the third, Perez again singled, and after Jose Caballero walked, center fielder Jake McCarthy — the Arizona Diamondbacks' second-highest draft pick in June — hit his first professional home run to give Hillsboro a 6-0 lead, which proved more than enough for Tabor.
"He's a 19-year-old kid trying to get his feet under him," Roof said of his starter, whom the Diamondbacks drafted in the third round last year and promoted to Hillsboro this season. "He's fresh out of the pond, so he gets a little excited, but he stayed within himself today and let the game come to him and just played."
With the win, the Hops improved to 11-6 on the season, tied with Salem-Keizer atop the Northwest League's South Division standings as of this paper's print deadline Monday, July 2.
Roof is excited about his team and how they're steadily improving through an approach consisting of focus and hard work.
"The big thing is that they come in everyday with the idea of getting better," said the manager. "When it's game day and the lights come on, they bring it. Win or lose, they're playing hard. There's a lot of focus and a lot of intensity, and they want to get better, but they also want to go out there and win."
The Hops were set to play two more versus Spokane after this paper's print deadline before hitting the road again Wednesday, July 4. They'll play three-game sets at Salem-Keizer and Eugene before returning Wednesday, July 11.
The following are recaps of last week's games:
Wednesday, June 27 - Hillsboro 7, Boise 2
After dropping the first of a the three-game road set to the Boise Hawks a day prior, the Hops rebounded with a 13-hit offensive performance, while starting pitcher Franklyn Soriano and relievers Luis Castillo and Kyler Stout stymied Boise hitters in their five-run win.
Soriano pitched five solid innings, allowing just two earned runs on four Hawks hits while striking out five and walking one. Meanwhile, Castillo and Stout combined to close out the final four innings, pitching two innings apiece and giving up just a single hit while striking out four.
Offensively, the Hops scored six of their seven runs over the first four innings, led by Ryan Tufts, who went 3-for-5 with two doubles and four RBIs.
Hillsboro scored two in the first inning, three in the second and one in the fourth, before plating their final run in the top of the ninth.
Run, McCarthy, run.
The 39th pick in this year's draft sparked what turned out to be the game winning rally when he beat out a bunt for an eighth-inning single, then scored from second when Boise pitcher P.J. Poulin threw wildly to third on a steal attempt, breaking a 5-5 tie and clinching the series for Hillsboro.
The Hops' bullpen did the rest, blanking the Hawks over the final two innings; Hillsboro's Josh Green and Wesley Rodriguez combined to allow one hit while striking out three and walking one.
Hillsboro built a 5-1 lead through four innings on the backs of a couple sacrifice flies and a Keshawn Lynch homer, but the visitors watched as Boise scored four runs in the fifth to tie the game 5-5. Hops starting pitcher Adrian Del Moral retired 12 of his first 13 batters, but a one-out RBI double by Boise's Aubrey McCarty and a two-base fielding mishap by the Hops' Jose Caballero set the table for a two-run triple, then after a pitching change, Hillsboro's Trevor McKenna's wild pitch allowed Luke Morgan to score from third and the game was tied.
Lynch led the Hops, going 3-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs. Catcher Andy Yerzy and outfielder Dan Swain added two hits apiece, improving their season batting averages to .367 and .364 respectively.
Friday, June 29 – Hillsboro 5, Spokane 1
The Hops returned home and captured their third win in a row with a 5-1 series-opening win over the Spokane Indians in front of 3,216 fans at Ron Tonkin Field.
Left-handed pitcher Bryan Valdez was magnificent, throwing 6 1/3 innings in relief of starter Jackson Goddard, allowing one earned run on six hits while striking out six and walking none. Goddard, who was a 2018 third-round draft pick from Kansas University, signed June 10 and arrived in Hillsboro less than a week ago, threw just the first inning and struck out two before being relieved in the second.
Offensively, Hillsboro scored four runs in the first two innings, highlighted by a three-run third capped by a Jose Caballero RBI triple that plated Keshawn Lynch.
Three Hops — Ryan January, Dan Swain and Lynch — had two hits. Swain continued his tear at the plate, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs, raising his batting average to .385.
Saturday, June 30 – Hillsboro 3, Spokane 2
Nothing says fun at the ballpark like a good old-fashioned walk-off.
The Hops won their fourth in a row and sixth in their last seventh when designated hitter Jorge Perez singled in Dan Swain, capping a two-run ninth and bringing the Hops faithful to their feet to celebrate the come-from-behind win.
The Indians stymied the Hops early as starter Seth Nordlin struck out nine batters in five innings of work, allowing only one run on a Perez single. Hillsboro pitching was almost as good: After an uneventful one-inning start by new draftee Ryan Weiss in his Hops debut, Kenny Hernandez allowed two runs while striking out five over four innings, followed by four hitless, scoreless frames from a cast of relievers that included rehabbing big-leaguer Brian Ellington.
Leading 2-1 late in the game, Spokane brought in hard-throwing reliever Emmanuel Clase to close the game with two outs in the eighth. But the Hops weren't finished yet. Rose led off the ninth with a double and was replaced by Caballero as a pinch-runner, who scored on a Martinez base hit. The big first baseman was also pinch-run for, with Swain stepping in and alertly moving to second base on a groundout.
With two outs and the winning run at second, Perez blooped a single just over the leaping second baseman's outstretched glove to bring home Swain — and the game-winning run.
Perez and Rose both had two hits in the game.
With the win, Hillsboro improved to 10-6 on the season and pulled into a tie for first place in the Northwest League's South Division with Salem-Keizer.
Game-4 of the Hops' five-game set with Spokane is tonight, July 2, at 7:05 P.M. at Ron Tonkin Field.
Mark Miller contributed to this report.