PASCO, WASH. --- The Hillsboro Hops were down to their last out in the top of the ninth inning on Wednesday night at Gesa Stadium, trailing 7-6 to Tri-City, when Blaze Alexander smoked a mammoth three-run home run to left. Hillsboro won 9-7, their fourth victory in the last five
PASCO, WASH. --- The Hillsboro Hops were down to their last out in the top of the ninth inning on Wednesday night at Gesa Stadium, trailing 7-6 to Tri-City, when Blaze Alexander smoked a mammoth three-run home run to left. Hillsboro won 9-7, their fourth victory in the last five games. The two clubs have split the first two games of a six-game series.
It wasn't the most well-played game, but it compensated for a lack of precision with its entertainment value. Tri-City led 3-0; the Hops led 6-3; Tri-City tied it 6-6, then pulled ahead 7-6; and the Hops won 9-7.
The game was billed as a match-up of high-prospect left-handers --- 20-year-old Blake Walston for the Hops (Arizona's number-five prospect, according to MLBpipeline.com) and 22-year-old Hector Yan (the Angels' number-nine prospect). Yan was wild. He walked five and was pulled after just two innings. Walston was better, allowing three runs on five hits over five innings, while walking three and striking out six. His only mistakes came in the third: first, when he walked the number nine hitter, Spencer Griffin --- who had just one hit in his previous 29 at-bats --- on a 3-2 slider; and later when he left one up to another struggling hitter, Adrian Rondon, who hit a two-run double. Outside that inning, Walston showed the stuff that has the Diamondbacks so excited about him.
Tri-City led 3-0 when Hops left-fielder Dominic Canzone smoked a two-run home run to right field in the top of the fifth, his second homer in the last three games, and his fifth of the year. The score remained 3-2 Tri-City heading to the top of the seventh. Entering that inning, Hillsboro had drawn seven walks and gotten another base-runner on an error, and had been able to cash none of them in.
That changed in the seventh when Cam Coursey drew a leadoff walk. With one out, Canzone hit shot under the glove of first baseman Kyle Kasser and down the right field line for a double, sending Coursey to third. Tristin English singled to left to score the tying run, and with two out, Canzone scored the go-ahead run when Zac Kristofak unleashed a wild pitch. After Alexander walked, Axel Andueza dunked a single into center to score English and make it 5-3. When the count went to 0-2 on Spencer Brickhouse, Hops manager Vince Harrison had Andueza break for second and get in a run-down; it worked successfully as Alexander blazed home with the fourth run of the inning before Andueza was tagged out. It was 6-3 Hops.
Tri-City, though, would come right back in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Griffin singled to center, Livan Soto had an infield hit, and Brendon Davis walked to load the bases. Mailon Arroyo --- who, in September of 2019 in the same ballpark, had worked out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam to preserve a 2-1 win in Game Three of the NWL Championship Series --- came in again with the sacks full and none out. This time, though, he gave it up, as Jordyn Adams clouted a three-run game-tying double to left.
Tri-City then took a 7-6 lead in the bottom of the eighth on a walk, a pair of bunts to load the bases again with none out, and a sacrifice fly by Soto. Arroyo did well to allow just the one run.
That set the table for the drama in the top of the ninth. Luis Ramirez, who had worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning, retired the first two men to face him in the ninth. (Canzone, who needed a triple to hit for the cycle, was retired on a running catch in deep right by Francisco Del Valle, or he might have had the three-bagger.) Suddenly, though, Ramirez got wild, walking English on five pitches and Andy Yerzy on four. Tri-City acting manager Jack Santora (skipper Andy Schatzley had been ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the sixth inning) then lifted Ramirez and brought in Chad Sykes. With the Hops down to their last out, Alexander blasted one way out to left. The only question was if it would stay fair... and it did, giving Hillsboro a 9-7 lead.
Yaramil Hiraldo struck out the side in order in the bottom of the ninth --- Adams, Del Valle and Rondon --- to seal the win.
Alexander's blast was just the fifth Hops home run this year with more than one man on base, and is probably their most-dramatic hit of the season.
Hillsboro drew 11 walks in the game, with the final four of them coming home to score. Tri-City drew five walks, with four leading to runs.
The Hops (22-31) and Dust Devils (19-36) meet on Thursday night in the third game of the six-game series. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05, with airtime at 6:50 on Rip City Radio 620AM and www.RipCityRadio.com.