Hops come up short in division race, but overcome Eugene
HILLSBORO — The Hillsboro Hops' bid for a first-half division title fell short on Sunday, despite a 5-2 win over the Eugene Emeralds.
The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (25-12) clinched the Single-A Northwest League South Divison first-half flag when they defeated the host Boise Hawks 4-3 in 12 innings.
The Hops are 23-14, with one first-half game remaining, 7 p.m. Monday against Eugene at Ron Tonkin Field.
Hillsboro did its part on Sunday, staying alive despite being no-hit through 6.1 innings before a home crowd of 4,252.
The Hops trailed 2-0 before tying the game in the seventh inning and scoring three runs in the eighth.
"Excellent job by the relievers. They kept us in the game," Hillsboro manager Javier Colina said. "My boys never give up. They knew this was a big game, and they came back."
The fight the Hops put up Sunday "shows we're a good ball team, because we never give up," first-base coach Chuy Mendoza said. "Everyone kept pushing. We don't pull, we push. That's the type of team we are."
Emeralds starter Zach Mort had a perfect game through four innings and didn't allow a hit until a one-out single to Jesus Marriaga in the seventh ended his day.
Steven Leyton, who had reached base one batter prior on a walk, read the hit perfectly and slid into third safely, with Marriaga taking second on the throw.
Reliever John Pomeroy (ex-Oregon State) entered and induced a Kristian Robinson groundout to put Eugene one out away from escaping the jam with a 2-0 lead.
Things looked in Pomeroy's favor with Andy Yerzy, who is 8 for 67 in July, at the plate. But before Yerzy had the chance to come through, catcher Jonathano Soto failed to handle a pitch, and Leyton scored from third.
Three pitches later, Yerzy walked, putting runners on the corners for Tristin English. The Hillsboro designated hitter blooped a tying single to left field.
The Hops took the lead in the eighth when Leyton lined a double down the right field line, scoring David Garza, who had led off with a walk.
"I was ready for a fastball and just trying to put a good swing on it," said Leyton, from Nicaragua, via translator.
Two batters later, Robinson hit his second home run in as many days and seventh of the season.
Before the Hops broke up the no-hitter, Hillsboro reliever Jake Polancic began his warmups in the bullpen, looking to keep the deficit at two. When he entered in the top of the eighth, he was in charge of keeping the game tied.
Polancic (2-0) allowed a leadoff single to Edmond Americaan, who advanced to second on a groundout. With one out and Luis Diaz at the plate, Americaan tried to steal third. Polancic sniffed this out, however, utilizing his inside move to second base to pick off the speedy Emeralds outfielder.
With the bases cleared, Polancic struck out Diaz to keep his ERA at 0.00 in 10.1 innings for the Hops.
"Whether we were down 2-0, or the game was tied 2-2, I just needed to come up and throw a scoreless inning to keep us in the game," Polancic said. "Getting the (pitching) win was awesome, but the team getting the 'W' is the most important thing."
Drey Jameson, the Arizona Diamondbacks' first-round pick out of Ball State, made his first career start on the mound for Hillsboro. The right-hander struggled with command in his one inning, surrendering a run on two walks, a hit and a balk.
The Emeralds added a second run in the fourth inning off Michel Gelabert. Following a leadoff double by right fielder Zac Taylor, Americaan singled him home.
Tensions boiled over in the top of the fourth inning. After Eugene leadoff hitter Fernando Kelli took a strike with the bases loaded, he and catcher Daniel Wasinger exchanged words, which caused both dugouts and bullpens to clear. Things remained nonviolent, however, and the Hops were able to get out of the inning and begin their comeback.
"That's passion," Mendoza said. "You're playing with your heart out there, and at times the emotions can be bigger than the moment. It's not easy to control it. We're trying to win and play hard."
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