The Eugene Emeralds tried to pull off a heist in the ninth against the Hillsboro Hops bullpen bandits, only to get doublecrossed.
On the verge of a 6-4 loss, Eugene (26-11 2nd half, 54-21 overall) tied the game in the top of the ninth on a two-RBI double by Zack Short. But Luis Veras doubled and scored on a two-base passed ball with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Hops (22-14, 41-33) a thrilling 7-6 win in front of 3,009 fans at Ron Tonkin Field Sunday afternoon.
The win ensured at least a .500 record against the NWL's top team as the Hops improved to 4-1 at home against Eugene this season and 6-5 overall against the Emeralds. The teams will face off one more time in the regular season Monday night before opening the NWL South Division playoff series Wednesday night at Ron Tonkin Field.
Hillsboro fell behind 4-2 on a two-out, two-RBI single by Zack Short off Hops reliever Matt Pobereyko in the top of the fourth inning. Pobereyko replaced an ineffective Tyler Mark to start the third inning and surrendered a two-RBI home run to center field to Wladimir Galindo to open the scoring. The Hops evened the score in the bottom of the inning. Ben DeLuzio singled to center in an 11-pitch at bat to score Adam Walton from second. DeLuzio stole second and scored on Matt Karaviotis' two-out single.
Hillsboro got one run back on the first pitch in the bottom of the fourth when Luke Lowery hit his fifth home run of the year to left field. With lefty Marc Huberman replacing Eugene starting pitcher Tyson Miller in the fifth inning, Walton reached on a leadoff bunt base hit and Adam Walton walked. A wild pitch moved the runners up and Walton scored on Karaviotis' infield hit to third base. With DeLuzio at third and two outs, Huberman threw over to first base and DeLuzio made a break for it, stealing home with a headfirst slide to give Hillsboro a 5-4 lead.
The Hops tacked on a key insurance run in the seventh. With one out and lefty reliever Andin Diaz on the hill, Jason Morozowski doubled to left center. Matt McPhearson, recently back with the Hops after missing two and a half months with a thumb injury, came in to pinch-run. Karaviotis followed with his third hit of the game, putting runners at the corners. Paxton De La Garza, another member of the Hops' opening day roster who rejoined the team during the game, lifted a fly ball to left, plenty deep enough to score the speedy McPhearson for what turned out to be a critical insurance run.
In the ninth, Curtis Taylor came on to try to nail down the save for the Hops. After striking out Kevonte Mitchell, Taylor (1-0) gave up an infield hit to Eugene's number nine hitter Jose Gonzalez on a chopper to first base. Taylor covered the bag, but stepped to the left of the base. By the time he slid his foot into contact, Gonzalez had reached. Robert Garcia took a close pitch outside to earn a full count walk before Short drove an 0-1 fastball to the wall in left center for a game-tying double.
In the bottom of the ninth, Luis Veras sent a hot ground ball down the third base line on a 1-1 pitch, ruled foul by the home plate umpire, drawing the ire of Hops manager Shelley Duncan. No matter, because on the very next pitch, Veras sent another hard ground ball just a few inches to the right that stayed fair for a double. WIth Justin Chigbogu pinch-hitting for McPhearson, Eugene reliever Jed Carter (3-1) fired a fastball that glanced off the shin guard of Eugene catcher Marcus Mastrobuoni and ricocheted over toward the Hops dugout. As Veras raced toward third, Mastrobuoni sped toward the ball and went into a slide with the intent of gathering the ball and firing home. But with teammate Chris Pieters converging at the same time, Mastrobuoni lost his balanced and tumbled, mishandling the ball as Veras charged home without a throw, initiating a mob scene at the plate as the dugout spilled out and doused him with water and Gatorade, ripping off his jersey to reveal a bare torso in what has become a Hops walk-off tradition.
Taylor's first professional victory did not come the way he intended, coming on the heels of his second consecutive blown save. Carter suffered his first professional loss.
Karaviotis finished 3-for-4 with two RBI's, starting the game at second base before shifting to first base in the sixth inning. Walton went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and DeLuzio also scored twice. Short went 2-for-4 with four RBI for Eugene. Galindo doubled along with his homer, his second straight two-hit game in the series.
The Hops and Emeralds polish off the regular season Monday night at 7:05 p.m. at Ron Tonkin Field before opening the playoffs on Wednesday night at the same time. Pregame coverage on Rip City Radio 620 AM begins at 6:35 p.m. on both nights.