It was a tale of two teams heading in opposite directions meeting at Hillsboro Ballpark on Wednesday evening with the Ems entering on a 7-game losing streak while the streaking Hops had won 8 of their last 10 games putting them in a first-place tie with Boise and Salem-Keizer. However, it was the Emeralds who flipped the script and put a big dent in the Hops' playoff hopes as Eugene held on for a 6-5 win in front of a packed house in Hillsboro.
Things started all-smiles for the home crowd as it was the Hops who got on the scoreboard first - and early In the bottom of the first inning with one out and Yogey Perez-Ramos on second base, Daniel Palka crushed his second home run as a Hop (both of which have come against the Ems) and with one swing of the bat gave his side an early 2-0 advantage.
The lead would hold up until the top of the third inning when Hops starting pitcher Ross Gerdeman saw his early-inning struggles finally come around to bite him. Coming off tossing a complete-game shutout against the Ems in Eugene in just his last start, Gerdeman didn't have nearly as much good fortune facing the same side in his own ballpark. The Ems would score 4 runs in the third to take a 4-2 advantage, and Eugene wouldn't look back.
The Hops would cut the Ems lead to one run on three occasions on Wednesday evening, including in the bottom of the ninth, but each and every time the Ems would respond as they held on for a narrow 6-5 win.
Adam Cimber came on in the 9th inning with a 6-4 advantage and quickly recorded the first two outs in order, but after back-to-back singles that saw a run score thanks in part to a stolen base, tension was high as the Hillsboro faithful were rocking the house and Daniel Palka coming to the plate. Palka, who was only a double short of the cycle and had already plagued Emeralds pitching, ended up striking out to end the game as the Ems snapped their 7-game slide while the Hops' playoff hopes took a serious hit.
With the loss, Hillsboro now falls a game behind Boise for first place thanks to the Hawks picking up a crucial 10-6 win over the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, and now only five games remain in the 2013 Northwest League regular season.
The Ems will continue to try and dash the playoff hopes of their new Oregon rival tomorrow evening at Hillsboro Ballpark with the first pitch expected at 7:05. As always, you can catch all the Eugene Emeralds action on 95.3FM The Score, www.EmeraldsBaseball.com, or the free Eugene Emeralds smart phone app.