Hops clinch second half, prep for playoffs
It was a good week for the Hillsboro Hops, both on the field and off.
Hillsboro won the NWL South Division second half and clinched a record-breaking sixth consecutive playoff berth.
The Hops won four of their six games, all against Boise, setting up a three-game playoff series with Salem-Keizer beginning with a 7:05 p.m. game Wednesday, Sept. 4, at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro. Game 2 and Game 3 (if necessary) are scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 5, and Friday, Sept. 6, both at 6:35 p.m. at Salem-Keizer's Volcanoes Stadium.
In the process and in the aftermath of yet another successful Hops regular season, three Hillsboro Hops were named to the 14-member 2019 Northwest League Year-End All-Star Team.
Deyni Olivero was named Northwest League pitcher of the year, and was joined on the team by right-handed pitcher Marcos Tineo and outfielder Kristian Robinson.
Olivero, 21, from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, currently leads the Northwest League in wins and earned run average. In 14 games (eight starts), he is 7-3 with a 2.12 ERA. He has allowed 49 hits and 20 walks, while striking out 42 in 63 2/3 innings.
Tineo, 22, from San Cristobal in the D.R., is second in the league in wins, second in strikeouts and third in ERA. In 14 games (seven starts), he is 6-3 with a 2.32 ERA and has tallied 64 strikeouts against just 19 walks in 62 innings.
Robinson, 18, from Nassau in the Bahamas, was arguably the best all-around player in the Northwest League in 2019. In 44 games, Robinson hit .319 with nine home runs, 35 runs batted in and 14 stolen bases in 17 attempts. He was promoted on Aug. 3 to Kane County in the Midwest League, where he's batting .217 with five home runs in 25 games.
In addition to this year's Hops, former Hillsboro catcher Daulton Varsho was named the Arizona Diamondbacks' Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America.
Varsho, who played 50 games in Hillsboro in 2017, hit .311 with seven home runs. In 105 games at AA Jackson this season, Varsho is hitting .295 with a .378 on-base percentage, .520 slugging, with 25 doubles, 4 triples, 17 homers, 56 RBI, 81 runs scored and 21 of 25 stolen base attempts.
Here's a recap of the week that was:
Aug. 28 — Boise 4, Hillsboro 1
It's official; the Hillsboro Hops are going to the 2019 Northwest League playoffs.
Despite dropping their series opener to Boise Wednesday night, Aug. 28, the Hops qualified for the playoffs as a result of the Eugene Emeralds' 6-5 loss to Salem-Keizer.
With their postseason spot secure, Hillsboro broke the NWL record — held by both the Hops and Vancouver Canadians — of five straight postseason appearances.
"This has been a really fun team to be around this year because of so much talent," said Hops President and General Manager K.L. Wombacher. "We have a great partnership with the D-backs dating back to 2001 and they have been very committed to the success of our franchise along with developing their players in a great environment thanks to our passionate fans here. Consistent success is something we can all be very proud of."
The game with Boise marked the Hops debut of left-handed pitcher Blake Walston, Arizona's 26th overall pick in last spring's Major League Baseball draft. Walston — after appearing in three games for the AZL D-backs at the Rookie level — threw two innings against the Hawks, allowing one earned run on two hits, while striking out one and walking one. Deyni Olivero took over for Walston in the fifth, but the normally dependable right-hander struggled, allowing three earned runs over his four innings, taking the loss.
The Hops — who tallied just four hits against five Boise hurlers — managed to tie the game in the fourth when Tristan English doubled to right field, moved to third on a wild pitch, then scored on a fielder's choice off of the bat of Liover Peguero. Sadly, however, the Hawks broke that tie with three runs in the sixth, two on a bases-loaded single by Yorvis Torrealba and a third a batter later on a ground out to short. Hillsboro never threatened over the final three innings.
In all, seven Boise players notched hits in the game, led by Trey Jacobs, who went 2-for-4 with a double.
Hillsboro's Tristan English was one of the Hops' few offensive bright spots, finishing 2-for-4 with a run scored. English has 10 hits in his last seven games, raising his season average to .276.
With the loss and Salem-Keizer's win, the Hops' lead in the NWL South Division was cut to three with five games remaining in the regular season.
Aug. 29 — Hillsboro 4, Boise 1
A night after clinching a spot in the NWL playoffs, the Hops inched ever closer to winning the South Division's second half with a come-from-behind win over Boise at Ron Tonkin Field.
After trailing 1-0 early, Hillsboro scored one in the fourth, two in the sixth and a final run in the seventh to win the second their three-game home set with the Hawks.
Drey Jameson rode through two innings of one-run, three-hit ball, striking out two and walking one before giving way to four Hops relievers, who shut Boise out over the final six innings, allowing just two hits while striking out nine.
Hillsboro's Ricky Martinez, Jorge Barrosa and Andy Yerzy all tallied two hits, while Boise committed two critical errors that led directly to Hops runs.
Aug. 30 — Hillsboro 6, Boise 0
The Hillsboro Hops (22-13 second half, 46-27 overall) shut out the Boise Hawks 6-0 on Friday night in front of a sellout crowd of more than 5,000 at Ron Tonkin Field.
Former Oregon Ducks star Ryne Nelson brought his best stuff to Friday's contest versus Boise, throwing three shutout innings for the Hops. Nelson, the 56th overall pick in this year's draft, fooled most of the Hawks' batters, as they could only muster up two hits while striking out five times through the first three innings.
In the bottom of the fourth, Hillsboro struck first as Ryan January crushed a double off the wall in center field, bringing home Liover Peguero and Dom Canzone to make it 2-0. From there, it was more of the same as the Hops scored two more in the sixth and one apiece in both the seventh and eighth innings before Hillsboro relievers did the rest.
In relief of Nelson, Wilfry Cruz was dominant for the Hops, pitching four shutout innings while giving up only one hit and striking out six batters.
Making his debut in Hillsboro, highly touted prospect Brennan Malone pitched a perfect eighth inning. Malone, 18 years old from Matthews, North Carolina, was drafted straight out of high school as the 33rd overall pick in this year's draft. He was committed to the University of North Carolina before choosing to play professionally.
In all, eight Hops batters tallied hits, led by Canzone and Eddie Hernandez, who recorded two apiece.
Tristin English and Ryan January each collected five RBIs — accounting for all of the Hillsboro Hops' runs — in the team's 10-3 win at Memorial Stadium on Saturday night. English had the biggest blow of the night, a seventh-inning grand slam to put the Hops up 6-2.
With the win, Hillsboro clinched the best record in NWL South Division.
Despite trailing by two for much of the game, the Hops tied the game with two runs in the sixth, then got four in the seventh and four more in the ninth to cruise to an easy victory over the Hawks.
January tied the game in the sixth with a two-RBI double to left field. Then after Eddie Hernandez, Ricky Martinez and Joe Gillette reached base, English drove one to deep left field en route to the first-year pro's seventh home run and first grand slam of the season.
English finished 3-for-5 on the night and raised his season batting average to .286.
Conor Grammes started the game on the mound for Hillsboro, and was one of five pitchers that held Boise to just five hits.
Sept. 1 — Boise 6, Hillsboro 4
The Hops' three-game winning streak came to an end Sunday night as Hillsboro stranded 11 baserunners, including seven in scoring position.
Despite drawing first blood with two runs in the top of third inning thanks to an RBI single by Jorge Barrosa, coupled with a wild pitch, Boise responded with three runs in the fourth in part due to back-to-back RBI doubles by Trey Jacobs and Trevor Boone.
Hillsboro responded to tie the game in the fifth on an RBI single by the hot-hitting Tristin English, but three Hops errors ultimately did the visitors in.
Corbin Carroll returned to the lineup for the Hops after missing two weeks with a shoulder injury.
Hops starter Marcos Tineo took the loss, leaving the pitcher one win shy of matching the franchise single-season record of seven.
Sept. 2 — Hillsboro 13, Boise 5
Hillsboro ended the regular season with a bang, scoring 13 runs, six of which came in the top of the eighth inning in Boise.
After the Hawks cut the lead to 2-1 with a run in the bottom of the third inning, the Hops scored one in the fourth, two in the fifth and two more in the seventh before ending things with a six spot two innings later.
Six Hops hitters tallied multiple hits in the game, led by Jesus Marriaga, who finished 3-for-5 with an RBI and three runs scored. Corbin Carroll, Liover Peguero, Dominic Canzone, Ryan January and Nick Grande all recorded two hits, with Eddie Hernandez was the only Hop who failed to notch a hit on the night.
Seven Hillsboro pitchers threw in preparation for this week's playoffs, with Deyni Olivero getting the win, while Boise's Jeffri Ocando took the loss.
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