Mother Nature, while seemingly not a fan of baseball of late, seems to be a fan of the Hillsboro Hops.
Hillsboro won its second straight High-A West series this past weekend due in part to an unseasonably wet weekend at Ron Tonkin Field.
The June 12 game versus Tri-City was suspended in the top of the fifth inning due to wet conditions. Upon its completion Sunday, the win, coupled with the cancellation of Sunday's originally scheduled game as the result of rain, allowed the Hops to take three of the series' five games with the Dust Devils to notch consecutive series wins. (The previous series win versus Everett, too, was cut short by rain.)
"I'm still trying to figure out if the sun knows where Oregon is," Hops manager Vince Harrison said with a chuckle. "It's definitely not easy on the guys when you have conditions like that, but we still try to get the work in and make sure the guys are prepared to play. It's not ideal, but it's part of the game, and for most of these guys, it's not their first time with it."
The week started swimmingly for Hillsboro, as the home team took the series' first two games by an aggregate score of 17-6.
The Hops took the first game, 7-4, after breaking open a 4-4 game with a run in the seventh and two more in the eighth. Buddy Kennedy led the way for Hillsboro, going 3-for-5 with 6 RBIs, including a two-run ground-rule double in the eighth to push the home team's lead to three.
Tristan English put the Hops on top in the seventh with an RBI single to left field, scoring Blaze Alexander. English was one of three Hillsboro players with multiple hits in the game.
The Hops continued their hot hitting the following night, tallying five first-inning runs and notching 12 hits en route to a 10-2 win.
Five Hillsboro players had two hits in the game, and seven Hops knocked in at least a run, including Andy Yerzy, Nick Dalesandro and Ricky Martinez who tallied two apiece.
For the second consecutive night, Kennedy brought his A game, notching two hits, an RBI and two runs scored in the blowout win. The 22-year-old third baseman was a one-man-wrecking-machine during the week, going a combined 8-for-17 in four games versus the Dust Devils, with two home runs, 8 RBIs, and six runs scored.
The 2017 fifth-round pick is leading the team in batting average (.300) and hits (27), and he is tied for the team lead with four home runs.
"Buddy's bat skills are very impressive," Harrison said. "We actually moved him up in the lineup to get him some more at-bats. He's always been a good hitter, and his ability to adjust and understand sometimes how they're pitching him are definitely assets."
The home team took a step back the next two days. Hillsboro dropped the Thursday afternoon game — in which the Hops were held hitless until a Tristan English single in the seventh inning — 6-0. The following night, the Dust Devils claimed a 4-2 contest in which the Hops were held scoreless on just two hits until the ninth inning. The Hops wasted an outstanding pitching performance from Slade Cecconi, who allowed just one earned run on two hits.
Harrison said the lull was a combination of both the Hops' struggles, along with some quality Tri-City pitching. But he added that sometimes circumstances can either build or kill momentum.
"We came out swinging pretty good, but we hit some balls hard right at some guys, and the wind kept a couple in the park," Harrison said of Thursday's game. "That stuff can get to you sometimes and, at the same time, help an opposing pitcher out."
The Hops are in Eugene this week, where they'll have an opportunity to build on their last two series victories and hopefully pick up some ground on the league-leading Everett AquaSox.
"This team's (Eugene) been solid all year, so we know what we've got to do to compete," Harrison said. "But we always try to stay in the moment, go 1-0 every day, and hopefully by the end of the series, we've got a chance to say we've won four games or more."
Hops scores from the past week:
Hillsboro 7, Tri-City 4
Hillsboro 10, Tri-City 2
Tri-City 6, Hillsboro 0
Tri-City 4, Hillsboro 2
Hillsboro 5, Tri-City 3
3B Buddy Kennedy went 8-for-17 in his last four games versus the Dust Devils, with two home runs, eight runs batted in, six runs scored and two stolen bases.
SS Blaze Alexander hit .375 with two doubles and two triples in his last four games versus the Dust Devils. The 20-year-old has raised his batting average 41 points since June 1 and is batting .364 in the month.
RP Nick Snyder has earned three saves in his last three appearances before press time, allowing no runs and just two hits, while striking out six in four innings of work. The 23-year-old has allowed just two earned runs in 13 2/3 innings of work this season.
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