Trailing Hillsboro by four games in the Northwest League South Division standings with the halfway point of the season approaching, the Boise Hawks (18-13) need to win the series and realistically sweep the Hops (21-10) to have a chance at catching the Hops in the race for the first-half division title.
Two of the hottest hitters in the Northwest League combined to score the go-ahead run when Luis Castro singled in Matt Hearn in the fifth inning of a 3-2 Hawks victory at Ron Tonkin Field Monday night in the opener of the three-game set between the top two teams in the NWL.
Hearn went 3-for-4 and made a spectacular catch in center field to rob Hillsboro's Andy Yerzy of an extra-base hit in the sixth inning. Early in the season, Hearn robbed Tra Holmes of extra-bases with a scintillating stab, diving on the center field warning track to make a backhanded sliding catch. The undrafted indie ball signee from San Jose has hit in 13 straight games, batting .536 during that stretch with multi-hit games in nine of his last ten. He improved his league-leading batting average to .406.
Castro, the NWL leader in slugging percentage, extended his current hitting streak to 12 games, going 2-for-4 with a double.
Alec Byrd (1-1) earned the win with four innings of relief, allowing four hits and one earned run with four strikeouts and one walk.
Boise outhit the Hops 11-7 on the night, with nine of the hits and all three runs coming off Kenny Hernandez (1-2) in five innings of relief. Luke Morgan gave the Hawks their first lead with a 2-run homer to left field in the fourth inning that made it 2-1. Hillsboro left-fielder Tra Holmes climbed the wall in left and reached over but the ball was just inches out of his grasp.
Holmes gave Hillsboro the first lead, drawing a leadoff walk in the first inning before swiping second and third base to run his team-leading tally to 16 steals. Jose Caballero drove in the Tallahassee speedster with a sacrifice fly to center field.
A potential big inning slipped away from the Hops in the fourth after back-to-back singles by Keshawn Lynch and Jose Caballero to open the inning. After a force out at second put runners at the corners, Joey Rose hit a sinking liner to left that Morgan misplayed, overunning the ball in an attempt to make a sliding catch. Lynch scored easily on the play as the ball rolled to the fence, but Andy Yerzy was unable to score from first, holding at third base as Rose alighted at second with his league-leading 12th double. With one out in the inning and the game tied 2-2, Jake McCarthy grounded out to first, unable to advance the runners. After Byrd walked Francis Martinez to load the bases, he fanned Ryan Tufts to end the threat.
In the Hops eighth, Holmes beat out an infield hit and went all the way to third on an errant throw by second baseman Jeff Bohling. With one out, Lynch hit a bounder to short against the drawn-in Boise infield. The ball deflected off shortstop Terrin Vavra's glove and Holmes broke for the plate, but was caught in a rundown and ruled out of the baseline. Lynch reached second on the play, but Caballero bounced out harmlessly to end the inning.
Hunter Williams nailed down his first save of the year for Boise with a scoreless ninth inning, surrendering only a two-out singe to McCarthy before Martinez whiffed to end the game, Williams' second strikeout of the inning.
Cabellero had two hits for Hillsboro, extending his on-base streak to 22 games with hits in 11 of his last 12. Hidekal Gonzalez, who came into the contest batting .136 in 35 games combined between the NWL and the South Atlantic League, had three hits for Boise.
The Hops lead over Boise is now three games with seven games to play before the first-half cutoff. Game two of the series is at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday night, with pregame coverage beginning at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Northwest Rip City Radio 620 AM and ripcityradio.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.