BOISE, IDAHO --- The Hillsboro Hops walked the tightrope. And they made it across.
With Hillsboro leading 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth in Boise, Stephen Dezzi made a diving catch in right to rob extra bases from Boise's Hamlet Marte leading off the inning. After a walk, a hit and a ground-out, Boise had the tying run at third and the winning run at second. But Hops closer Ryan Burr induced Bryan Carroll to line out to Dezzi in right, and the celebration was on.
Hillsboro (21-15) won the first-half title for the second consecutive season. The defending Northwest League champions will play the second half of the season knowing they're assured of a September playoff berth.
Trevor Mitsui and Josh Anderson had run-scoring hits in the first inning, and Galli Cribbs had an RBI ground out in the second, giving Hillsboro a 3-0 lead.
Right-handed pitcher Tyler Mark, Arizona's sixth-round draft choice this season, started in his Hops debut after three appearances in the Arizona League. He allowed just one hit in three innings. Jeferson Mejia, making his first relief appearance after six starts, retired the first six hitters to face him. But Boise would begin to make noise in the sixth, and they kept the pressure on the remainder of the game.
Marcos Derkes singled home a run for Boise in the sixth, then stole second. Kevin Padlo, the league-leader on on-base percentage, came up representing the tying run. Mejia struck him out on a 2-2 fastball.
In the seventh, Boise put two men on base with one out on an error and a walk. Kevin Simmons got a ground out off the bat of Boise's Wilkyns Jimenez, sending the tying runs to second and third. Cameron Gann came out of the bullpen and struck out Tyler Follis to end the inning.
In the eighth, Gann gave up a pair of doubles, with Padlo's two-bagger driving home a run to make it 3-2. With the tying run at second, Burr came in and retired cleanup hitter Brian Mundell on a fly out to center.
After the Hops left two men on base in the top of the ninth --- they left 11 on base in the game --- Boise had its final shot.
After Dezzi's diving catch, Burr walked Stephen Leonard. Jimenez singled to the hole at third, as the ball glanced off third baseman Cribbs' glove. Follis hit a high chopper to the right side, and it took a good play and quick release by Hops second baseman Fernery Ozuna to retire Follis at first for the second out. But the tying run moved to third and the winning run to second.
Up came Carroll. It was a battle of former Pac-12 foes from 2013 and 2014 --- Burr from Arizona State and Carroll from UCLA. Carroll swung at the first pitch and hit it hard, but Dezzi caught it --- this one a much easier play --- to secure the game and the first-half pennant.
Boise left seven on base --- all seven in scoring position, and five in the final three innings.
Mejia (3-3) was the winning pitcher. Boise's Logan Sawyer (2-2) took the loss. Burr earned his second save.
The series wraps up in Boise on Saturday night at 6:15 Pacific. The radio pregame show begins at 5:45 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.