EUGENE, ORE. --- The Eugene Emeralds trailed 3-0 entering the bottom of the ninth inning at home against the Hillsboro Hops on Sunday evening, but they thrilled a crowd of nearly 5,000 people at P.K. Park with a four-run bottom of the ninth to win, 4-3.
Hops closer Wesley Rodriguez issued a leadoff walk to Cubs first-round draft choice Nico Hoerner, and then gave up a single to Jonathan Sierra on a 1-2 pitch. Christopher Morel hit a sacrifice fly to make it 3-1, and Tyler Durna hit a ground-rule double along the line in left to put the tying runs on second and third. Hops manager Shawn Roof came out to ask plate umpire Ray Patchen about the ball being called fair, and in the ensuing discussion Roof was ejected from the game.
Gustavo Polanco --- who had the game-winning single against the Hops in Game One of last year's South Division Series --- then lined one to right, over the head of Dan Swain, scoring Sierra and Durna with the tying runs. Polanco's ball bounced over the fence for Eugene's second consecutive automatic double.
Kai-Wei Lin was summoned from the bullpen to replace Rodriguez, and Fernando Kelli --- one of the fastest players in baseball --- pinch-ran for Polanco at second.
Lin threw two off-speed pitches to the next batter, Jonathan Soto, each with the same result: in the dirt for a swing and a miss, and to the backstop. The first wild pitch sent Kelli to third base, and the second scored him with the winning run.
The loss put a damper on an excellent performance by Hops starter Adrian Del Moral. He threw five shutout innings, allowing just two hits, with one walk and five strikeouts. Brian Christian worked 2.2 innings, and Josh Green pitched around a walk to get the final out of the eighth.
Hillsboro scored the first two runs of the game in the top of the second when Jose Albertos --- who is currently rated by MLBpipeline.com as the Cubs' #4 prospect, but who has been extremely wild this year --- walked three batters in a row. Ryan Dobson (who was 3-for-4 with a walk) scored on a wild pitch, and Jorge Perez scored on a base hit by Andy Yerzy.
The Hops increased the lead to 3-0 in the sixth on doubles by Joey Rose and Francis Martinez, with Martinez picking up his team-leading 15th run batted in. However, Hillsboro came up empty in the seventh after putting runners at second and third with none out.
That would come back to haunt them in the bottom of the ninth.
Eugene improved to 9-15, while Hillsboro fell to 16-8. Salem-Keizer beat Boise 12-7, so Salem-Keizer is now two games behind Hillsboro with 14 games left in the first-half pennant chase. Boise is three out, and Eugene is seven back.
The Hops wrap up the three game series in Eugene on Monday night at 7:05 PM. The radio broadcast begins at 7:00 on Rip City Radio 620 AM and www.RipCityRadio.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.