The Eugene Emeralds (10-14) dropped the first game of a two-game series against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (16-8) on Sunday evening, falling by a final score of 10-7 in front of 4,834 fans at PK Park.
As has been the case over recent days in the Emerald Valley, the news of new additions dominated the headlines at PK Park, and Sunday's game proved no different.
Chicago Cubs fifth rounder and former Washington Husky Josh Burgmann got the start on the mound for the Ems, and although his day was short it showed plenty of promise. The righthander tossed an inning of scoreless ball striking out two of the three Volcanoes batters he faced.
In the second inning, another new Emerald made his professional debut on the mound. Cubs fourth rounder and former USC Trojan Chris Clarke came on to relieve Burgmann, and he too showed what warranted such a high selection as he struck out the side.
After Clarke's electric top half of the inning on the mound, the Emeralds exploded in the batter's box in the bottom half of the frame. Grayson Byrd led off the inning by working a walk and was followed by a Yonathan Perlaza single to center field, a single that was booted by Volcanoes outfielder Alex Canario allowing both Byrd and Perlaza to advance another ninety feet, putting runners on second and third with no outs. Nelson Maldonado followed with a single to center field that scored both Byrd and Perlaza to give the Ems the first lead of the game, 2-0.
Luis Vazquez continued the offensive onslaught with a triple on the first pitch he saw from Salem-Keizer starting pitcher Jesus Ozoria to score Maldonado. Two batters later, with Vazquez on third and Darius Hill at the plate, Hill launched a sac fly to right field that proved just deep enough to score Vazquez and make it 4-0.
In the third, Zac Taylor belted a one-out double to right field before quickly being advanced ninety feet in the ensuing at-bat thanks to a groundout by Grayson Byrd. With two out and Taylor on third, the Ems took advantage of some good fortune when first baseman Tyler Flores booted a would-be inning-ending grounder, a routine play that instead resulted in his glove getting knocked clean off his hand allowing Perlaza to reach first safely and Taylor to score from third.
One inning later, the Volcanoes bats began to wake up, and it all happened with two outs. After Ems pitcher Blake Whitney got back-to-back strikeouts to lead off the inning, a walk issued to Ricardo Genoves and a Tyler Flores single put runners on the corners. Armani Smith stepped to the plate and singled on the first pitch he saw to score Genoves, and Freed followed with a double on a blooper down the left field line that found the perfect spot to fall and score both Flores and Freed, making it a 5-3 ballgame.
The Ems got one back in the bottom of the inning, starting with a leadoff walk from Jake Washer, a former ECU Pirate who was making his Emeralds debut after being drafted in the 29th round of this year's MLB Draft. Washer was advanced to second in the ensuing at-bat thanks to a single by Darius Hill, and then advanced another ninety feet after an Edmond Americaan fielder's choice groundout that nabbed Hill at second base. Chicago's highly-touted second rounder Chase Strumpf stepped up and delivered, singling to right field to score Washer and push the Ems lead back up to three.
The 6-3 score held until the eighth inning when the Volcanoes erupted for five runs, four of which came on one swing of the bat. Emeralds reliever Raidel Orta entered the game to start the inning, but quickly he found himself in a jam after surrendering a leadoff walk and a pair of singles. With the bases loaded and one out, Tyler Flores stepped into the box and immediately made amends for his earlier error, and then some. The second-year pro demolished an offering from Orta, launching a grand slam well on to the roof of the University of Oregon baseball program's player development facility in right field to give the visitors their first lead of the game, 8-6.
Salem-Keizer struck for two more in the top of the ninth thanks to more clutch two-out hitting. Sean Roby drove an RBI single to score Simon Whiteman, and Franklin Labour followed with a double down the left field line to score Roby and make it 10-6 heading to the bottom of the ninth.
After an appearance from the ever-elusive Rally Squatch, the Emeralds offense went to work aiming to complete an improbable comeback of their own. Strumpf got the inning started by mashing a double off the left field wall, his second double of the day, and that quickly led Volcanoes manager Mark Hallberg to call on the bullpen and bring in Deiyerbert Bolivar. The Venezuelan quickly compounded the problems for Salem-Keizer, though, as a Yonathan Perlaza single with two on and one out cut the Volcanoes' lead to 10-7. After a Maldonado infield single loaded the bases, the winning run stepped to the plate in the form of Luis Vazquez, but the young shortstop quickly struck out on three pitches, and Jake Washer followed with a strikeout of his own to cap a wild game at PK Park.
Despite the loss, a number of the new roster additions from the 2019 MLB Draft showed tremendous promise. Strumpf and Maldonado each finished 4-for-5 at the plate, Zac Taylor went 1-for-2 with three walks, and Darius Hill went 2-for-4.
The Emeralds and Volcanoes meet again on Monday night at 7:05pm PST at PK Park. Monday night is Wildlife Night at PK Park, presented by Wildlife Safari. An assortment of animals will be on display throughout the ballpark before and during the game, including a live cheetah.
You can find the full promotional schedule for the 2019 Eugene Emeralds season by visiting www.EmeraldsBaseball.com.
Tickets to Emeralds home games are on sale now at www.EmeraldsBaseball.com or by calling (541) 342-5367.
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This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.