With just 18 games remaining in Hillsboro's 2022 Northwest League regular season and with the hometown Hops trailing first place Eugene by nine games, it appears Sonadores De Hillsboro will be on the outside looking in when it comes to this year's postseason.
With a chance to gain ground on the first-place Ems, the Hops managed just a split with Eugene this past week and in the process left their playoff hopes up to what would amount to nothing shy of a miracle as the team proceeds down the season's home stretch. But while winning is always a goal, a bigger one is getting these players better prepared for the higher levels to come.
"Our job is player development and with moving pieces and parts that are constantly on the move and guys getting challenged every day, wins aren't always easy to come by," Hops manager Vince Harrison said. "The big picture is trying to get these guys experienced at higher levels and give them challenges. Playoffs would be nice, but you know, there's only so much we can do with the roster changes and player movement we see."
After dropping the first of the six-game set, Hillsboro managed back-to-back wins in games two and three, but dropped two of the final three of the series, including an 8-3 defeat in the series finale Sunday, Aug. 14.
Harrison was mostly pleased with his team's performance but acknowledged that control on the mound has led to problems in the past and against Eugene a lack of control led to walks — which ultimately led to some defeats.
"We played well in the games we won, and the games we lost we were just a couple pitches away," Harrison said. "That's the frustrating part. Almost every big inning starts with a free pass. When you're getting behind guys or putting guys on base, one big hit can change everything, and that's hurt us this season."
Despite being deep into the "dog days" of the 2022 campaign, the Hops' youth movement continued its impressive showing with 2021 first round pick Jordan Lawlar hitting .394 over the team's last 15 games, and 19-year-old Deyvison De Los Santos tallying three more home runs this past week, bringing his season total to 20 — eight of which have come in just 26 games with the Hops.
Both De Los Santos and Lawlar have lived up to the hype since arriving in Hillsboro, but Harrison said he's not been overly surprised by either's performance despite the upgrade in competition.
"Pleasantly surprised just based on their lack of experience, but not surprised by their talent," the manager said. "De Los Santos has that confidence and Lawlar, you're starting to see a bit more of why he was such a high pick. They're special players."
On the mound, Hops starter Scott Randall continued his stretch of impressive performances, throwing six innings in a 10-1 win Aug. 18. The 24-year-old righthander allowed just four hits while giving up zero runs on the night, while striking out four and walking one. Randall has a 0.66 ERA over his last two outings and is 3-1 with a 2.35 ERA over his last 30 days.
"He's dialed in, but he's also put in some good work," Harrison said. "He realized what he needed to do to get better and he did it. He worked on his slider, learned how to play it off his fastball and worked with his number one attribute—his control. He's doing well."
Harrison said watching the young guys and players like Randall make the necessary strides to improve and flourish at this level is good to see, and in many ways — from an organizational standpoint — more rewarding than wins and losses.
"They (Lawlar, De Los Santos and Randall) are what we call organizational wins," Harrison said. "They're better players than they were a month ago and in the big picture we feel that is bigger than playing in the postseason."
News and Notes
Hillsboro catcher Lyle Lin was promoted to Triple-A Reno Aug. 20. Lin played 37 games in Hillsboro this season and batted .183.
Shortstop Gary Mattis was promoted to Double-A Amarillo Aug. 20. Mattis has split time between rookie ball, Low-A Visalia and Hillsboro this season, playing a combined 41 games and batting .403 with three home runs. With the departure of Mattis, shortstop Sheng-Ping Chen was promoted to Hillsboro from Visalia.
Former Hops and current Diamondbacks outfielder Jake McCarthy hit .350 for Arizona over the last six games and is hitting .333 over his last 14 games.
Last week's results:
Eugene 9, Hillsboro 1
Hillsboro 5, Eugene 3
Hillsboro 10, Eugene 1
Eugene 5, Hillsboro 1
Hillsboro 5, Eugene 2
Eugene 8, Hillsboro 3
Neyfy Castillo was 9-for-21 at the plate versus Eugene, batting a scorching .429 against the Ems.
Deyvison De Los Santos has become a mainstay in the "hot" category, this past week hitting three home runs with eight RBI.
Starting pitcher Scott Randall allowed just four hits in his six innings this past week and improved to 3-1 with a 2.35 ERA over the last 30 days.
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