VANCOUVER, B.C. - In the first half of the season, the Hillsboro Hops were one of the Northwest League's worst defensive teams and Vancouver one of its best. My how things have changed.
The Hops (6-4 2nd half, 17-31 overall) made several key defensive plays and took advantage of an early error to defeat Vancouver 4-3 Thursday night at Nat Bailey Stadium.
In front of a crowd of 4,565 people (and 201 dogs), the Hops improved to 4-3 on the season against their Great White North neighbors and maintained a share of first place in the Northwest League heading into Friday's "Nooner At The Nat" meeting with the C's.
Ben Eckels (3-5) got the win on the mound, allowing five hits and two earned runs in six innings. Daniel Gibson allowed an unearned run in the ninth on the way to his third save of the season.
Vancouver's Kyle Anderson (4-1) suffered his first loss, surrendering two runs in the sixth inning after the Canadians had taken a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth. Hillsboro's George Roberts started the rally with a one-out base hit up the middle. Cesar Carrasco followed with a base on balls before Jordan Parr hustled out an infield hit to shortstop. Ty Linton tied the game with a sacrifice fly to center field, his second RBI in as many nights. With two outs, Randy McCurry shot a line drive through the hole on the right side to bring home Carrasco with the go-ahead run.
The Hops got a critical insurance run in the top of the ninth when Yosbel Gutierrez was hit by a pitch, stole second and scored on Roberts' bloop single down the right field line, just out of the reach of diving second baseman David Harris.
Harris had a rough night for Vancouver. He was unable to handle Roberts's sharp grounder in the first inning, deflecting the ball into right field, where it was bobbled by Melvin Garcia for an error. That put runners at second and third, setting up a Cesar Carrasco sacrifice fly, scoring Ryan Gebhardt with the first run of the game. Harris would misplay two more grounders later in the game and went 0-for-4 at the plate with an RBI, but stranded three other runners in scoring position.
The Canadians scored a run in the ninth, taking advantage of a passed ball to score on Harris' ground out to first. After Melvin Garcia reached on a two out error to put the tying run on base, Gibson struck out Chaz Frank for the final out of the game.
The Hops played some spectacular D behind Eckels, with George Roberts robbing Frank of a potential RBI hit the third innings with a lunging stop before winning a footrace to the bag against the speedy leadoff man. Ty Linton made a superb, full-extention diving catch in left field on a ball hit by Justin Atkinson to lead off the sixth inning. And in the eighth, with Hillsboro leading 4-3, the Hops foiled a double steal attempt when Gebhardt threw back to catcher Grant Nelson to nail Ian Parmley trying to steal home. The Canadians have committed seven errors in the two games of the series to just one of the Hops and for the second night in a row some boos were heard from the crowd.
Roberts went 3-for-5 at the plate with an RBI and a run scored. Carrasco also had an RBI and a run and the newest Hop, center fielder Justin Bianco, went 1-for-4 in his NWL debut. Dickie Thon, Jr. went 1-for-2 with a double and two RBI for the Canadians and is responsible for all but one run in the series. Atkinson went 2-for-4 with a double.
The Hops will be going for their second three-game winning streak of the season when Braden Shipley takes the hill Friday against Vancouver's Jeremy Gabryszwski.