Hops split with Ems, welcome first-rounder
Call it a push.
Hillsboro managed a split with Northwest League rival Eugene this past week following a 9-4 win in the series finale Sunday, July 10, at Ron Tonkin Field.
The Hops used a four-run eighth inning to blow-open a one-run game and cruise to victory in evening the series at three games apiece.
With the win, Hillsboro improved to 8-7 in the second half of the High-A season and are just a half game behind first place Vancouver.
The week began on a good note with the Hops celebrating with their fans a 5-3 Fourth of July win on the field, and an Independence Day firework celebration off of it. Ryan Bliss and Neyfy Castillo each tallied two hits in the game and starting pitcher Jamison Hill allowed just four hits while striking out six and walking two in 6 1/3 innings of work.
Hillsboro dropped the ensuing game 1-0 despite outhitting the Emeralds 6-5 but bounced back for a 3-1 win July 7, thanks primarily to an outstanding starting pitching performance from 22-year-old Luke Albright. The right-hander threw seven shutout innings, allowing just five hits while striking out seven and walking just two. Albright has allowed just a single earned run over his last 12 2/3 innings pitched, as of press time.
The Ems, however, rebounded with a 5-4 win the next night. Eugene erased a 4-1 seventh-inning deficit with four runs over the final three innings, and left no doubt in Saturday's series penultimate game, responding to a 2-0 first-inning deficit to score 14 unanswered runs as they cruised to a 14-2 blowout win.
The Hops' A.J. Vukovich was one of the home team's few bright spots in the lopsided defeat, tallying two hits for the third time in the series, including a first-inning home run — his eighth of the season. The 20-year-old former fourth-round pick has 15 hits over his last 10 games and is batting .385 with a 1.097 OPS, following last week's series.
Vukovich spearheaded the Hops' 9-4 series finale win July 10, going 3-for-5 with a run scored and two stolen bases.
The Hops outhit the Emeralds 12-6 in the win and took advantage of two Eugene errors to overcome a 3-0 deficit, scoring all nine of their runs over the game's final five innings.
In addition to Vukovich, Castillo and Danny Oriente each tallied two hits in the game, with Oriente notching four RBI, including a two-run single that gave the Hops a 4-3 lead in the sixth inning.
Fox Semones also contributed to the finale win, scoring and driving in two runs. The 24-year-old is hitting .350 over the past two weeks with seven RBIs.
In addition to the action on the field this past week, on the transaction front, the Hops welcomed 2021 first-round draftee Jordan Lawlar to the team. The 19-year-old was the sixth overall selection in last year's draft following his senior year at Jesuit Prep High School in Dallas, Texas, and joins the team from Class-A Visalia, where he was hitting .365 with an on-base percentage of .461 and a slugging percentage of .623.
The second-year pro struggled in his first week in Hillsboro, batting just 2-for-21 in six games against the Ems.
Lawlar is the No. 17 prospect in baseball, per MLB.com, and No. 2 in the Diamondbacks' farm system, trailing only former Hop Corbin Carroll. Prior to signing with the Diamondbacks, Lawlar had been committed to play at Vanderbilt.
Meanwhile, Carroll — who started last season with the Hops before a season-ending injury — finished a rehab assignment July 7 and was assigned to Triple-A Reno July 9. The 21-year-old batted .313 with 16 home runs at Double-A Amarillo prior to his promotion to Reno and was 1-for-5 with a home run and two RBI in his Triple-A debut. He's now just one step away from the major leagues, where he could join fellow Hops alumni Sergio Alcántara, José Herrera, Buddy Kennedy, Jake McCarthy, Geraldo Perdomo and Daulton Varsho in Arizona.
Next, the Hops will travel to Vancouver for six games with the Canadians July 12-17.
Last week's results...
Hillsboro 5, Eugene 3
Eugene 1, Hillsboro 0
Hillsboro 3, Eugene 1
Eugene 5, Hillsboro 4
Eugene 14, Hillsboro 2
Hillsboro 9, Eugene 4
A.J. Vukovich has 15 hits over his last 10 games and is batting .385 with a 1.097 OPS. Vukovich also has four stolen bases over that same timespan.
Second baseman Fox Semones is hitting .350 over the past two weeks with seven RBIs.
Luke Albright is 2-0 with a 0.71 ERA over his last two starts, including a seven-inning, five-hit, seven-strikeout shutout July 7.
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