Late heroics lift Hops
EUGENE — After winning the first two games of their Class A Northwest League series by a combined score of 13-0, the Hillsboro Hops needed to fight for the sweep on Thursday against South Division rival Eugene Emeralds.
The Hops came back to earn their fifth win in a row thanks to a ninth-inning, tying hit by Andy Yerzy and a 10th-inning, winning hit by Jorge Barrosa before 4,284 fans at PK Park.
Heading into the ninth, the Hops trailed 2-1. And things looked more bleak when left fielder Jesus Marriaga led off with a grounder to third.
But rather than concede, Marriaga hustled out of the box and create a bad throw by Eugene third baseman Josue Huma, who airmailed the first baseman and allowed the tying run to reach second base.
"A lot of guys who aren't competing that way might just jog to first base," Hillsboro pitching coach Barry Enright said. "That mentality is what you've got to do to win."
Liover Peguero wasted no time moving Marriaga to third, as he lined a fly ball to right field.
With the infield in, Yerzy was able to come through, slicing a ball over the shortstop.
Yerzy, who has endured a tough 2019, has put things together this past week. In his last five games, he has seven RBIs
"He's been taking better at-bats," Enright said. "If we can get him going, this team will be pretty special."
Yerzy's hit was the Hops' first since Tristin English's two-out single in the first inning.
The Hops took their only lead in the 10th. Barrosa singled home Kevin Lachance, who began the inning at second base due to minor-league extra-inning rules.
Hillsboro closer Eduardo Herrera shut the door with a perfect 10th to gain his seventh save.
"I had all the confidence in the world in that guy," Enright said. "That guy is nasty … he's a pretty special kid."
Although Herrera did not allow a runner, he had some help from home plate umpire Zee Zdenek.
With free runner Jake Washer on third, Herrera bounced a ball passed catcher Daniel Wasinger, but the ball ricocheted off Zdenek right back to Wasinger.
If it hadn't hit the umpire, Washer would have scored easily, but the assist allowed Herrera to get Grayson Byrd to fly out for the win.
"Talk about an MVP umpire in the last inning right there," Enright joked.
Herrera's save put an exclamation point on a masterful series by Hillsboro's pitching staff. Over 28 innings, the Hops allowed two runs and 12 hits while striking out 40 batters.
"Everyone stepped up," Enright said. "I couldn't be more proud of them for coming and sweeping these guys at their place."
Arizona Diamondbacks first-round pick and left-handed pitcher Blake Walston received the start in his Hillsboro debut. The 18-year-old from Wilmington, North Carolina, struck out three in two innings and surrendered one run.
"He's electric," Enright said. "We're going to continue to work on his off-speed pitches … I like the demeanor he has. He went right after guys and kind of beat them with one pitch."
Deyni Olivero came on in the third, and the right-hander allowed one run in five innings.
Mailon Arroyo took over in the eighth and made quick work of the Emeralds.
After Yerzy's tying hit, Liu Fuenmayor (1-0) sent the game to extras with a two-strikeout ninth.
The Emeralds' first run came in the second, when first baseman Ryan Reynolds hit a one-out double, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Luis Vazquez's RBI groundout.
That lead would hold until the fifth, when three walks by Yunior Perez and a sacrifice fly by Wasinger tied the game.
The Emeralds took their final lead in the seventh when Alexander Guerra singled home Edmond Americaan.
The Hops entered the series leading the Emeralds by one game. Hillsboro improved to 18-10. Eugene and the South first-half champion Salem-Keizer Volcanoes are tied for second at 14-14, with 10 games remaining before the NWL playoffs.
The Emeralds will hit the road on Friday, starting a four-game series against the Everett AquaSox (13-15).
Hillsboro will take an eight-hour bus ride to Spokane to take on the North Division-leading and first-half champion Indians (17-11, first by two games over theTri-City Dust Devils in the second half). The four-game series kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
"Spokane gave it to us at our place," Enright said. "That's a good team. … To be up four games — we can't take our foot off the gas."
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