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By Maverick Pallack/Portland Tribune/Martinez ignites Hillsboro offense in 6-0 victory

HILLSBORO — After losing six of their last seven games heading into Thursday night's matchup against the visiting Boise Hawks, the Hillsboro Hops put forth a strong showing in a 6-0 rebound win.

Despite their recent struggles, the Hops are in an advantageous position in the Single-A Northwest League South Division.

Thursday's win kept Hillsboro (12-9) at pace with the Eugene Emeralds (12-9) atop the standings. The Emeralds defeated the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes 5-3 on Thursday.

In a series-opening, 2-1 loss to Boise on Wednesday, the Hops struggled to create anything on offense and their bullpen could not hold a 1-0 lead.

On Thursday, things were quite the opposite. Hillsboro capitalized with runners in scoring position, took advantage of Boise mistakes and silenced the Hawks' offense before 3,003 fans at Ron Tonkin Field.

"Every team is going to have peaks and valleys," Hops leadoff hitter Ricky Martinez said. "We're just going to keep riding the wave and see what happens. (Thursday) in particular, everyone was real relaxed (in the locker room)."

Martinez ignited the lineup, going 3 for 3 with two walks, a run and an RBI.

"He's a great leadoff guy," Hillsboro manager Javier Colina said. "He gets on base a lot, he scores runs and he steals bases."

Martinez's ability to put pressure on the defense was on full display in the first inning, when he scored the first run.

After singling and advancing to second on a groundout, Martinez demonstrated his speed on a ground ball hit by Tristin English to third baseman Vladimir Dilone.

Martinez read Dilone's release and broke for third. After catching Dilone's throw to retire English, first baseman Tyler Plantier was forced to rush his return throw to third, but it was wild, allowing Martinez to score.

In the next half-inning, the Hawks were threatening to tie the game with runners on the corners and one out.

Yet, starting pitcher Conor Grammes was able to induce a ground ball, which shortstop Liover Peguero and Martinez turned perfectly for a double play to escape the jam and keep the lead.

"That play and the crowd getting into it, it's a real big momentum shift," Martinez said. "It puts the momentum back on our side and we can get back in the dugout and try to score some runs."

The shift was apparent as the Hops attacked Boise starting pitcher Micah Kaczor with six hits, eventually chasing him from the game with three runs plated in the inning.

The rally began with two outs. Dominic Canzone and Joe Gillette singled and then scored on Ryan January's two-run double.

January then scored on Martinez's single to right field. Jorge Barrosa followed with a double to left to chase Kaczor.

The two teams traded zeroes for four innings before RBI singles in the seventh by Corbin Carroll and Dominic Canzone gave the Hops a 6-0 lead.

Grammes, whose last outing, in Salem-Keizer, was cut short due to a rain delay, pitched two shutout innings before making way for piggyback and Northwest League All-Star Marcos Tineo.

Tineo effectively escaped a couple jams and held the shutout with four strikeouts in as many innings.

After blowing the lead on Wednesday, and a rather tough stretch over the last week, the Hops received a great performance from the back end of the bullpen.

Ethan Larrison threw a hitless seventh, and Liu Fuenmayor, making his Hillsboro debut, tossed two hitless innings to close out the game.

"I told (the bullpen) today in the briefing before stretching, 'Trust your instincts, trust your abilities. You know you're good, and you're here for a reason. I trust all of you,'" Colina said. "We have such a great team, we were just going through a little hump."

Hillsboro welcomed back coach Chuy Mendoza on Thursday. Mendoza, who has been battling shingles over the last couple weeks, not only returned as the team's first-base coach but as their motivator as well.

"I believe he's my MVP today," Colina said. "He's still sick even though he doesn't look like it, but he always brings the energy. The kids love him and they get along well. … Everyone was excited to see him."

The Hops and Hawks will play the series finale at 7 p.m. Friday, a Star Wars-themed night at Ron Tonkin Field.

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