Independence Day means different things to different people — but this Fourth of July wasn't your typical Sunday for a Hops roster, their coaches and the front office, as they made the most of the holiday this country holds dear.
"Everybody gets to do something special on this day, except for baseball players. ... To us, it's just another day," Hops manager Vince Harrison said. "So, we wanted to make it special for our guys, like it is for everyone else."
To do that, Harrison and his staff changed up their pregame routine. Rather than get their typical work in, the team, coaches and much of the front office staff enjoyed a barbecue, some cornhole, and a little down time with family and friends.
"It actually worked out really well, because we had a lot of guys whose families, girlfriends or wives were in town," Harrison said. "It was a great idea, and we couldn't have asked for a better day."
That day was made better by a third straight win over the Eugene Emeralds. With it, the Hops managed a series split with the league's second-place team, winning the last three after dropping three straight to start the six-game set.
Starting pitcher Kenny Hernandez was electric on the mound for Hillsboro, holding the visiting Ems to no runs on just three hits, while striking out nine and walking one.
"Our pitching coach said he looked pretty nasty in the bullpen during warmups," Harrison said. "His slider was nasty early, and that fastball was coming in on guys, so that makes it tough on hitters."
Hernandez' approach, along with the Hops' as a whole, may also have been a byproduct of their manager's pep talk a few days prior. Harrison said he talked with the team on the first of the month and challenged players to step up despite many personnel moves over the past month-plus. He asked his team for no more excuses.
"We can always come up with reasons why things aren't working," the manager said, "but we want to make sure that these guys are giving themselves a chance to be good every day and in every at-bat. I think we definitely saw some guys battling, and to me, that's a testament to the players buying in."
After the holiday, the team took off for Pasco, Washington, for six games against the last-place Tri-City Dust Devils.
Harrison knows the roadtrip to Tri-City is an opportunity to continue the momentum from the last three games versus Eugene, but he is by no means looking past or thinking less of a team they've seen 12 times already this season.
"The last time we played them here (Hillsboro), they were scrappy, hung around and were really aggressive," Harrison said. "So, I think it'll be a good test for us, and they have a lot of new guys up there that we haven't had a chance to prepare for, and we've got to get ready to battle with them again."
High A West Standings
Eugene 8, Hillsboro 2
Eugene 6, Hillsboro 3
Eugene 3, Hillsboro 1
Hillsboro 4, Eugene 2
Hillsboro 8, Eugene 5
Hillsboro 6, Eugene 1
LF Dominic Canzone hit .267 in five games against Eugene this past week, while hitting a home run, driving in three, and stealing three bases.
P Kenny Hernandez threw seven innings in a 6-1 win over Eugene July 4, shutting-out the Ems and allowing just three hits while striking out nine and walking one.
SS Blaze Alexander tallied four hits over five games against the Ems, drawing five walks on his way to a team-leading .474 on-base-percentage in the series.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.