What better way for the Hillsboro Hops to end the regular season than by winning a game in the same fashion they have won so many before?
Playing just his third game in Hillsboro, Othello, Washington native David Garza led off the ninth inning with a tiebreaking solo home run to left field as the Hops defeated the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes 5-4 in front of 3,084 fans in the first morning game in the history of Ron Tonkin Field.
It was the Hops' third homer of the day after solo shots by Jake McCarthy in the first and Will Gorman in the second.
The Volcanoes' took a 4-2 lead in the fourth inning on a two-run homer by Dalton Combs, but the Hops pulled even after Keshawn Lynch doubled and scored in the fifth on a Dan Swain infield hit and Joey Rose cracked his team-leading 21st double of the season in the sixth, scoring Ryan January from first. It was Rose's 42nd run batted in, tying Trevor Mitsui (2015) for the franchise single-season record.
The Hops' Yeison Santana got the start on the mound, his first of the year after 16 appearances out of the bullpen. Santana yielded all four Salem-Keizer runs, three of them earned, in three-plus innings before Wesley Rodriguez took over with a runner at first and none out in the fourth. From there, the Hops' pen did what they have done all season long, retiring 18 of the final 20 Volcano batters.
Rodriguez struck out three over 2 2/3 innings, allowing only a two-out base hit to Ricardo Genoves in the fifth. Justin Garcia (3-1) struck out Nick Hill for the final out in the sixth inning, then fanned back-to-back batters to start the seventh. The right hander from Colleyville, Texas with the nasty split-finger fastball retired seven of the eight batters to face him.
Garza, who joined the Hops along with fellow Northwest native Kevin Watson, Jr. during Hillsboro's trip to Boise, entered the game defensively in the fifth inning for Geraldo Perdomo. The 38th-round draft pick out of Tennesse Tech blasted a towering shot to left field off Trevor Horn, that just eluded the leaping Christopher Burks at the wall for his third home run of the professional season, first in a Hops' uniform.
In the ninth with the lead, Trevor McKenna retired the side in order with one strikeout. The undrafted lefthander from Savannah State has been dominant out the bullpen in late summer, with seven straight hitless appearances encompassing 8 1/3 innings. He nailed down his third save in as many tries this year.
The Hops' 51 victories and 27 second-half wins are both franchise records and paced the NWL. Hillsboro is 22-7 in one-run games in 2018.
Monday's game began at 11:05 a.m. due to a scheduled concert at adjoining Hillsboro Stadium. Fans enjoyed brunch at the stadium before first pitch and saw plenty of offense in the early-going. McCarthy led off the bottom of the first with his third home run as a pro. The Diamondbacks' first-round pick also singled to right in the third inning, but was thrown out trying to steal second base, one of five attempted base stealers cut down in the game by Salem-Keizer catcher Ricardo Genoves.
McCarthy left the game in the bottom of the fourth inning, with Dan Swain taking over in center. Hillsboro's leading hitter on the season, Andy Yerzy, also departed early, but not before taking one for the team. Yerzy was plunked in the backside by Salem-Keizer pitcher Gregory Santos in his first at bat in the first inning, likely in retaliation for Hops' pitcher Kenny Hernandez throwing at Giants' top prospect Joey Bart the previous night. Bart, along with several other of Salem-Keizer's top hitters, did not play Monday after the Volcanoes were eliminated from the playoff hunt following Eugene's win over Boise Sunday night.
The Hops have Tuesday off before beginning the Northwest League best two-out-of-three divisional playoff round Wednesday at Eugene's P.K. Park. Game time is 7:05 p.m. with pregame airtime at 6:35 p.m. on NBC Sports Northwest Rip City Radio 620 AM Wednesday night. Game two (and three, if necessary) will be at Ron Tonkin Field. Spokane and Everett will face off in the North Division playoff series. The best three-out-of-five NWL Championship Series begins Saturday.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.