KEIZER, ORE. ---- With apologies to Ernest Thayer, the outlook wasn't brilliant for the Hillsboro nine on Thursday night. The Hops faced a bases-loaded, nobody out jam in the bottom of the ninth inning at Volcanoes Stadium with the game tied 4-4. But third baseman Jose Caballero made a lunging play to his left to stab a hard grounder and start a 5-2-3 double play. Two out. Hillsboro closer Wesley Rodriguez then retired pinch-hitter Wander Franco on a line-out to center, and --- incredibly --- the Hops and Volcanoes were headed to extra innings.
In the Hops' first look at the controversial extra-inning rule, Hops shortstop Ryan Dobson (who had made the last out of the top of the ninth) began the inning as a runner at second base. Tra Holmes singled to center to put runners at the corners, and one out later, Caballero bounded one to short. He beat the return throw to first to avoid a double play and score Dobson. Hillsboro led 5-4.
Then, in the bottom of the 10th, Salem-Keizer began the inning with Wander Franco at second base. Kai-Wei Lin came out of the Hillsboro bullpen and retired Joey Bart --- the number-two overall pick in this year's draft --- on a line-out to deep left. Villar then scorched a grounder ticketed for the left-field corner… until Caballero snared it with a back-hand dive and threw him out at first for the second out. Lin then retired the dangerous Robinson Medrano on a fly out to shallow center to end it.
With the win, the Hops move a game up on Salem-Keizer in the South Division standings with 17 games remaining in the half. (It also means, with a win on Friday, the Hops would have a 4-2 head-to-head record against the Volcanoes, and would hold the first-half tiebreaker.)
Hops starter Ryan Weiss went one inning as expected, allowing three runs, including two on a homer by Villar. Kenny Hernandez came in and restored order, tossing 5.1 shutout innings.
Hillsboro got a run in the third on back-to-back doubles by Dobson and Holmes, and three more in the fifth on an RBI double by Ryan January and a two-run double by Perez to take a 4-3 lead.
Luis Castillo came on in relief of Hernandez in the 7th with the tying run on second and the go-ahead run on first, and retired the next two hitters to preserve the one-run lead.
Castillo issued a one-out walk in the eighth inning, and Hops closer Wesley Rodriguez took over. He walked Bart, then issued a game-tying single to David Villar --- Rodriguez's first blown save of the year --- setting up the drama to follow.
The Hops and Volcanoes wrap up the three-game series on Friday night at 6:35 (Pacific). The radio broadcast begins at 6:30 on Rip City Radio 620AM and www.RipCityRadio.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.