As the Hops continue to ease their way into the long 2022 season, it's win-some-lose-some as three losses in five games last week in Eugene left the team 13-13 and in fourth place in the Northwest League standings.
For the second consecutive week the Hops managed to sweep a Saturday doubleheader, but after dropping the series' first two games they left Eugene on the wrong end of a series-deciding finale, falling to the rival Emeralds 10-5 Sunday afternoon, May 8, at PK Park in Eugene.
"All in all, we were in a position to win almost every game," Hops manager Vince Harrison said. "So, that's all we can really ask for."
The uncharacteristically cold and wet spring conditions again wreaked havoc on the team's schedule, cancelling Thursday's game due to rain and forcing Saturday's doubleheader. Harrison said it's all part of the game and that nearly everywhere across the country and at nearly every professional level they have and continue to deal with adverse conditions, so as a result of such, players need to learn to navigate it.
"I played and coached in the Midwest and South Atlantic leagues and it's like this all the time," Harrison said. "So, guys always want to get out of the complex and out of extended spring training, but when they do, this is the alternative. A lot of them are going through it for the first time, so there's an adjustment period for sure."
The adjustment hasn't been all that bothersome for 20-year-old A.J. Vukovich who's batting .297 on the season and was 8-for-19 last week against Eugene.
Harrison said that despite his impressive stats, things could've been a lot better for the 6-foot-5 second-year pro from Wisconsin.
"He's a guy that we joke about not knowing how good he is," the manager said. "He's doing great and he had probably four or five balls this past series that he just squared up but were line drive outs. If we keep him consistent and keep him doing what he does, he's going to continue to impress people."
Also impressive was the performances of starting pitchers Ross (John) Carver and Jamison Hill.
Carver threw a gem in Friday night's 1-0 loss, allowing no runs and no hits while striking out 10 in five innings—earning him the Northwest League's Pitcher of the Week.
"He had it all working and was mixing it well," Harrison said. "He's been working on some stuff, but he did a good job of hitting spots and got into a rhythm. It was cool to see him do that."
Hill threw 4.2 innings Saturday and allowed just one earned run on four hits while striking out six. Harrison said Hill is a naturally quiet guy, but on the mound lets his arm do the talking.
Hill went undrafted out of Fresno State a year ago and the Diamondbacks were able to sign him as a free agent. The Hops manager said he still has a lot to work on, but that he seems up to the challenge and could end up being a diamond in the rough prospect.
"He's got a really good arm," Harrison said. "He's been working hard in the pen and has a tremendous upside. I can't believe we got that arm where we did, but he's got a chance to keep growing and make some noise."
The Hops welcomed back outfielder Tristan English this past week, who'd been nursing an injury.
English was a third-round pick in 2019 and has spent his entire career in Hillsboro, playing 83 games with the Hops last season, batting .242 with 10 homeruns. Harrison said he's excited to see English back in the lineup and hopes that the veteran can spark something offensively with the team.
"He's seen what success is like at this level," the manager said. "I think he can really help our team. If we can get him going, he knows what the grind is like and I think he can take some of the pressure off some of the young guys and they can catch on."
The Hops host Spokane for six straight games starting Tuesday, May 10, with the team offering fireworks immediately after Friday's game which is slated for a 6:35 p.m. start.
Hops catcher Axel Andueza was transferred to the Development List May 1 and is beginning a transition to pitching.
Relief pitcher Jake Rice allowed his first run in 10.2 innings or work when he the Ems scored a run off the second-year pro in the second of a two-inning performance May 7. Rice has relinquished just three hits and has struckout 14 in his 10.2 innings of work.
Tim Tawa continued his assault on opposing pitching, going 4-for-5 with a home run in the series-opener May 3 against the Ems. Tawa is hitting .279 with five home runs in 23 games this season.
For more information regarding start times, tickets and promotions, visit hillsborohops.com.
Last week's results:
Eugene 7, Hillsboro 6
Eugene 1, Hillsboro 0
Hillsboro 3, Eugene 2
Hillsboro 4, Eugene 3
Eugene 10, Hillsboro 5
A.J. Vukovich is batting .421 over the last seven days, and .333 over the last 15.
Former Hop and current Amarillo Sod Poodle (Diamondbacks Double-A affiliate) Corbin Carroll is batting .326 with nine home runs in 24 games this season. Carroll hit two home runs in back-to-back games this past weekend.
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