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Hillsboro drops five-of-six to the first place Ems and trails their rival by eight games.

PMG FILE PHOTO: JON LARIVIERE - Hillsboro Hops pitcher Jamison Hill during a game earlier this season. Hill threw 5.2 innings last week versus Eugene, striking out 13 and walking just two.Hillsboro's tough times continued this past week, as the visiting Hops dropped five of their six games at rival Eugene.

The series defeat left the club 11-19 in the second half, and eight games behind the first-place Emeralds.

The Hops have not won a series against a team other than the Tri-City Dust Devils since they took four of six from Vancouver at the end of May.

"It's tough," Hillsboro manager Vince Harrison said. "You can't really pinpoint one thing, but we just have to keep grinding and pushing these guys to fight through those tough moments and not just give in."

In a season that's seen the Hops repeatedly taking one step forward and two steps back, all momentum seems lost from their short series win over the Dust Devils after the MLB All-Star Break.

After dropping the first two games at Eugene, Hillsboro managed a win in the third July 28, but promptly fell in each of the last three games by a combined score of 24-9.

"Talk about momentum changes and just one or two plays really affecting the game — that's what happened to us three or four times," Harrison said. "Some credit goes to their hitters for taking advantage of our mistakes, but a lot was us and some bad timing. It's unfortunate we ended up on the other side."

The theme of the week was one-run defeats, as Hillsboro dropped three games by a score of 5-4.

The visiting Hops led in five of the series' six games and four of their five losses, squandering three two-run leads in either the middle or late innings. With the exception of Jamison Hill — who threw a gem in a 5-4 loss July 29 — the Hillsboro pitching staff had a combined earned-run average of 6.80, which simply won't get the job done.

"It was definitely a tough week for the bullpen overall," Harrison said. "We definitely had some spots and were in position to control our own destiny, we just didn't handle it very well this week."

One pitcher who did handle it well, though, was the 23-year-old Hill who threw 5 2/3 innings Thursday, July 28, allowing no earned runs while striking out 13 and walking two. Unfortunately for the Hill and the Hops, Hillsboro's bullpen squandered the 3-1 lead and lost the game 5-4.

Harrison said it was a shame to waste such a solid outing, but at the same time was sure not to take anything away from the right-hander's performance.

PMG FILE PHOTO: JON LARIVIERE - Hops infielder A.J. Vukovich takes a cut during a Hops game last month. Vukovich had three doubles and six RBI in six games versus Eugene last week.

"The guy basically gave up one hit the whole game," Harrison said. "He threw great and his performance just got overshadowed by a couple mishaps."

A couple other players who impressed despite the team's disappointing outcome were Deyvison De La Santos and A.J. Vukovich.

Vukovich, who entered play this week batting .268 with eight home runs on the season, was 8-for-24 with three doubles, six RBIs and three stolen bases over the series' six games.

De Los Santos continued to impress after being promoted to Hillsboro from Visalia July 22. The 19-year-old slugger had three home runs in Eugene and batted .385 while driving in six runs. Since arriving in Hillsboro a little more than a week ago, the Dominican is batting .385 with four home runs and a .718 slugging percentage.

Harrison said he's been impressed with the young man's performance thus far, but he hasn't been shocked by what he's seen.

"I wasn't surprised," he said. "I think anyone who's seen him knows his potential and what he can do, but the fact that he's 19 makes it even more impressive. As far as his ability, I think everyone in the organization knows what he's capable of."

But can he help this team win?

While the minor leagues are ultimately about developing young talent, losing doesn't sit well with any of the players or coaches. Harrison said he's still focused on winning games, and they'll keep working towards building some momentum going forward.

"We've got some good hitters here and some pitchers with some pretty good arms, but now we've got to build some of these guys up," he said. "We need everyone adding and contributing, and when you get enough of that going, you build momentum."

Hillsboro plays six games at Everett this week before coming home to host Spokane and Eugene over a two-week period.

Last week's results:

Eugene 5, Hillsboro 4

Eugene 5, Hillsboro 4

Hillsboro 8, Eugene 4

Eugene 5, Hillsboro 4

Eugene 10, Hillsboro 4

Eugene 9, Hillsboro 1

NWL Standings

Eugene 19-11

Vancouver 18-11

Everett 16-14

Spokane 14-15

Hillsboro 11-19

Tri-City 11-19

Who's hot...

Deyvison De La Santos hit .385 against the Ems, going 10-for-26 with three home runs, a double and six RBIs.

Third baseman A.J. Vukovich was 8-for-24 with three doubles, six RBIs and three stolen bases at Eugene.

Pitcher Jamison Hill mowed the Ems down in a 5-4 loss July 29, striking out 13 batters while walking just two.

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