HILLSBORO, ORE.--Only one team in the Northwest League was mathematically eliminated from the postseason heading into Wednesday night. No one told the Eugene Emeralds that they have nothing to play for.
All nine Emeralds in the lineup had a hit as Eugene handed Hillsboro a 6-5 defeat in the opening game of the Hops' final home series. Combined with Boise's victory over Salem-Keizer, the Hops (19-14 first half, 30-41 overall) slipped out of first place and are now tied for second in the NWL South Division with the Volcanoes, one game behind the Hawks with five games left in the regular season. Hillsboro finishes the regular season with three games at Boise following the conclusion of the homestand.
Six days after tossing a complete game shutout at Eugene, Hillsboro starter Ross Gerdeman (2-7) was ineffective, surrendering nine hits in 3 1/3 innings as the Emeralds (13-20), 26-45) overcame an early 2-0 deficit with a four-run fourth inning and never trailed again. An innings-eater all year for the Hops, Gerdeman had gone at least seven innings in his last three starts and six of his last seven. He had not been lifted before the fifth inning since a July 8 loss to Vancouver.
Hillsboro first baseman Daniel Palka gave the Hops that early lead with a mammoth two-run home run to right field on the first pitch he saw. The only thing that stood between Palka's blast and S.W. 229th street was a light pole as the ball carried well over 400 feet. Yogey Perez-Ramos had doubled to right field on the previous pitch and the Hops had a 2-0 lead.
Eugene came back with five hits in the top of the third to take a 4-2 lead. Michael Bass opened the inning with a double and scored on a Donavan Tate base hit. Fernando Perez and Michael Miller followed with back-to-back RBI singles and Edwin Moreno capped the scoring with a sacrifice fly to deep left field.
The Hops drew within one when Palka lifted a high fly ball to left center that both center fielder Henry Charles and left fielder Moreno lost in the darkening skies. The hustling Palka turned it into a triple, then scored on a wild pitch by Eugene starter Yimmi Brasoban, who struck out four and walked one allowing three hits, all for extra bases over his four innings.
Eugene answered back in the fourth when Michael Bass walked with one out, stole second and went to third on Henry Charles' second base hit. Gerdeman's night was over and reliever Blake Forslund came on to get the final two outs of the inning with Bass scoring on a Malquiel Brito ground out.
The Hops loaded the bases in the fifth when Eugene reliever Erik Cabrera suddenly lost command after getting the first two outs. After a walk to Perez-Ramos, Palka banged a single through the right side of the infield and Cabrera hit Zach Esquerra to load the bases, before walking George Roberts to force in a run. With the tying run at third, Brian Billigen flied out to right to end the threat.
Forslund closed the game with his longest outing of the season, going 5 2/3 innings, allowing one run on five hits with four strikeouts and a walk.
Down 6-4 in the ninth, the Hops again rallied with two outs as Taylor Ratliff singled, stole second and scored on a base hit to center by Perez-Ramos before Eugene closer Adam Cimber fanned Palka to end the game and claim his ninth save of the season.
Palka finished with three hits and a double shy of the cycle. All seven Hops hits came from the top three batters in the order.
Tyler Hale (3-2) earned the win for Eugene with two scoreless innings of relief.
Game two of the series will air live on Fox Sports Radio 620 AM and foxsportsradio620.com with pregame coverage beginning at 6:35 p.m. Thursday night. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m.