There's pitching, and there's what the Hops were doling-out this past week while taking five-of-six games from the Spokane Indians.
Hops starters meant business from the get-go getting a combined four-hit shutout from Scott Randall and Liu Fuenmayor in the first of the six-game set, and book-ended the high-end mound work when five Hillsboro pitchers combined to allow just a single earned run on five hits in the series finale Sunday afternoon.
In all, Hops starters — with the exception of the week's sole defeat May 11 — allowed just three earned runs on 14 hits, while striking out 27 and walking just six in 30.2 innings of work.
That's not good, that's great, and Hops manager Vince Harrison couldn't talk enough about it.
"Our pitching has been so good, they're just giving us a chance to win every night," the manager said. "They've put together some really good performances and it's going to be cool once we get some of our hitters going where I know they can go."
And that hitting isn't going just yet.
As hot as the Hops were on the mound this past week, they were equally cold at the plate, batting just .194 over the past seven days. Harrison said he's not concerned with the cold bats just yet, and in fact put a little of the blame on the equally frigid temperatures they've been playing through thus far this spring.
"To be honest, we haven't had too many decent days to play baseball yet," Harrison said. "We've got guys wearing hoodies under their jerseys and doing other stuff just to stay warm and get through. We're definitely looking forward to some warmer days hopefully, but guys are starting to figure some stuff out and work through some of their stuff."
That weather hasn't always played nice with the schedule in recent weeks either, and this past week wet conditions led to a rainout Thursday, May 12. Harrison said that's part of the game and something they simply have to deal with, but at the same time said it does complicate things in regards to planning and using your pitching, especially when one nine-inning game becomes two seven-inning games as part of a same day doubleheader.
"From a strategical standpoint it definitely changes the way we look at pitching," Harrison said. "Luckily for us our starters went deep in games so it kept our bullpen rested, which gave us options later in the week. But the downside is that those same rested guys don't get the work they need or want. That's the drawback."
Amongst the Hops' red-hot pitchers is 22-year-old John "Ross" Carver who threw seven innings on May 13, allowing just a single earned run on three hits while striking out 10 and walking one. The second-year pro from Dallas-Baptist has been virtually unhittable over his last 12 innings, amassing a .75 ERA while striking out 20 and walking just three. Harrison said he's seen a difference in the burgeoning ace and that difference lies in his breaking ball.
"I think early-on he just had some nerves that were getting in his way," Harrison said. "But lately he's settled down and he's really started to find some shape in his curve ball. He's finding his confidence and getting into a really good spot. I'm happy for him."
With their five wins the Hops improved to 18-14 on the season and into second place in the Northwest League standings. While still very early, Harrison said it's never too early to get a jump on the competition.
"It feels good, for sure," the manager said. "It's a long season, but winning games is never easy, so we'll take it."
Hillsboro travels to Everett this week for six games with the last place AquaSox May 17-22.
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