Hillsboro drops four of six to Spokane
Two-and-a-half weeks into the season and the Hops are about where you might think they'd be—roughly .500.
After 15 games the team sits at 7-8. Not ideal, but relatively par for the course when balancing new, young, and burgeoning talent embarking on a fresh baseball year.
In the wake of winning four-of-six games from the Everett AquaSox a week prior, Hillsboro managed to win just two of their six games against Spokane April 19-24 on what was the first of the team's 11 scheduled road trips this season.
Despite the series defeat, Hops manager Vince Harrison is relatively pleased with what he's seen and about where the team is headed.
"I'm very optimistic about this team," Harrison said. "There are always going to be some learning curves, but I think there's a high ceiling for this team both individually and collectively."
The Hops dropped the series opener 7-5 and won just one of the next three before nabbing the series finale in comeback fashion, scoring nine runs over the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to erase a 5-2 deficit and hold on for an 11-9 win.
Third baseman Cam Coursey remained hot against the Indians, going 2-for-4 with four RBI in Sunday's finale and upping his batting average to .371 while tallying eight RBI over the first 15 games.
Harrison said it's been a treat watching the 23-year-old third-year professional strut his stuff early in the 2022 season.
"One of the things that's been cool with Cam is watching him navigate through situations," Harrison said. "He knows what to do now and he's doing it. Plus, he put on some weight, got stronger, and now he's driving the ball. He's had some really good at-bats."
Another player showing out early is West Linn alumnus Tim Tawa.
The Stanford graduate and second-year pro has four homeruns and is hitting .277 in 13 games with the Hops. Harrison said he's far from surprised regarding Tawa's early production, but said a big part of his focus as manager is to be certain Tawa himself is enjoying the process of getting better.
"Tim sets the bar pretty high for himself, and we love that," Harrison said. "But we also want to be sure he's enjoying the stuff throughout the process."
The manager said that mindset is pretty common amongst young players because so few of them have ever experienced the rate of failure they often see early in their professional careers. Harrison believes Tawa brings a lot of potential to the table and because of that wants to continue to put him in positions to succeed.
"Tim's kind of that mellow presence anyway," he said. "So, we just want to keep giving him those opportunities to shine, and I think he's getting better each day."
One of the team's bright spots thus far has been starting pitching. Despite losses in eight of their 15 games, Harrison said they've been in every game and much of that was due to their starters on the mound.
All six of the team's starters made it out of the fourth inning last week and on three occasions they made it beyond the fifth.
Things have been a bit less rosy at the plate, where the Hops are fifth out of the league's six teams in batting average (.223) and fourth in home runs.
Harrison however said he's not down on their work at the plate, citing a handful of players including but not limited to: catchers Caleb Roberts and Adrian Del Castillo, outfielders A.J. Vukovich and Neyfy Castillo, and shortstop Ryan Bliss that he's seeing good things from.
Where they are excelling however is on the base paths, where they lead the league with 29 stolen bases. In an era that has diminished the value in the stolen base, Harrison said he encourages his guys to use their speed if they have it.
"I think if the pitcher is slow and you've got speed, you've got to take advantage of that," the manager said. "We like to use speed as a weapon. Weapons don't just have to be bats or gloves, so if a guy can impact the game with his legs, he should do that when he can."
Hillsboro is back home this week and will host the Vancouver Canadians Tuesday thru Sunday, April 26 thru May 1.
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.