It may have taken longer than the Eugene Emeralds would have liked, but their offense got going while their pitching stayed strong, scattering 10 Salem-Keizer Volcanoes hits and allowing just one run for a 4-1 victory in front of 1,998 at PK Park.
Solid pitching started for the Ems (1-1, 15-25) from the first inning when eighth-rounder Zach Mort made his fourth, and best, start of the year. Mort befuddled the Volcanoes (1-1, 21-19) all night, giving up just one run on four hits to one of the best offenses in the league. Mort also struck out a career high seven batters.
The lone run for the Volcanoes came in the third when, after two strikeouts, Kyle McPherson singled and Aaron Bond tripled him home to make it a 1-0 game. Mort got out of the inning with another strikeout.
Mort gave way to Jeffrey Passantino in the fourth, and Passantino (4-0) continued to build on his impressive year. Passantino scattered six hits over 4.2 innings, allowing at least one runner in every inning but held Salem-Keizer scoreless. He also walked two and struck out five.
The offense let Mort off the hook by tying the game in the fourth when Luis Vazquez singled to lead off the inning. But a strikeout and a Jonathan Sierra fielder's choice left the Ems with a runner on first and two outs.
After Sierra stole second, Nelson Velazquez came to the plate with the chance to tie. Velazquez was hitting just .139 with a runner in scoring position but was undeterred, working a seven pitch at-bat before driving the ball to left center, scoring Sierra and tying the game at 1-1.
It would be that Sierra and Velazquez combo to extend the lead in the sixth when Vazquez led off with a walk. Vazquez stole second before Luke Reynolds lined out.
Sierra would pick his teammate up with a line drive of his own, this one falling for a hit in front of the left fielder Bond. Bond fired home but it went high, sailing over the catcher's head, allowing Sierra to move to second and scoring Vazquez easily.
It was Velazquez's turn to come through once again, this time double over the center fielder's head to score Sierra to make it a 3-1 game.
Tyler Durna walked with one out in the seventh before moving to third on a two out single by Reynolds. Durna scored when Zach Becherer threw a pitch in the dirt to extend the Ems lead to 4-1.
Mitch Stophel relieved Passantino in the eighth with two outs and one on, getting Ricardo Genoves to strike out. He pitched a flawless ninth to earn his first save of the year.
The rubber match between these two teams comes on the first $3 Thursday of the year. Tickets, parking and, even drinks are all just $3. Visit the box office, open at 12, or go to emeraldsbaseball.com to reserve tickets now.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.