In the travel stakes, last night's series opener between the Hillsboro Hops and Boise Hawks was a dead heat. Both teams played three-hour-plus games before taking long overnight bus rides to get to Ron Tonkin Field Tuesday.
But the team traveling away from home has had the edge in this series and that was the case once again as Boise defeated Hillsboro 5-3 in front of 3,005 fans at Ron Tonkin Field in the opening game of the second half of the Northwest League schedule.
The first-half South Division champion Hops and Hawks split their first six games, with each team winning two on the road. Boise's success Tuesday keyed on a most unlikely player as undrafted free agent L.J. Hatch had his second straight productive night since being recalled from Pioneer League Grand Junction.
Hatch capped a three-run Boise second inning with a two-out, two-run single up the middle off Hillsboro starter Adrian Del Moral (0-3), who departed in the third with an apparent injury. The Boise second baseman, signed out of indie ball in 2017 after going undrafted at New Mexico State, hit just .113 in 11 games at the rookie-advanced level after batting .183 in 13 games at Boise earlier this year.
After the Hops closed to within 3-2 on a two-run home run by Jose Caballero in the third inning, Hatch was there in the fifth with a leadoff walk off Hops' reliever Justin Garcia, eventually coming around to score on a Luke Morgan ground out following a double steal.
In the sixth, the Hops began to mount a one-out rally. Caballero singled to right and Andy Yerzy shot a sharp grounder to the left of second for a base hit. But the potential threat fizzled when Caballero inexplicably rounded second base way too far. Center fielder Matt Hearn picked up the ball in shallow center and threw behind the runner to Hatch at second, easily nabbing Caballero for the second out. Joey Rose grounded out to end the inning.
Then Hatch came up again in the seventh, singling up the middle off reliever Chester Pimentel to put runners at first and third. A perfect bunt by Hearn loaded the bases for Terrin Vavra, who hit a potential double-play grounder to first baseman Francis Martinez. Martinez threw home for the force, but Vavra beat the return throw to first, prompting a very brief argument that led to the quick ejection of Hops' manager Shawn Roof. Luke Morgan's base hit plated Hatch, Morgan's second RBI and Hatch's second run of the game to make it 5-2 Boise.
The Hops answered with a run in their half of the seventh. Martinez doubled off Eric Hepple, went to third on a Jake McCarthy broken-bat single and scored when McCarthy stole second, inducing a wild throw from the catcher Hidekel Gonzalez. Hepple retired the next three batters as the Hops went hitless the rest of the way.
McCarthy walked in the ninth with two outs, but former UConn closer P.J. Poulin fanned Keshawn Lynch on an inside fastball to close out his fourth save and a Vancouver victory.
Former LSU reliever Nick Bush picked up his first pro win, pitching into the fifth inning for the first time. Bush allowed just two hits and two earned runs with three strikeouts and one base on balls.
McCarthy's base hit in the seventh extended his current hitting streak to 12 games. He went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks. Caballero had two hits for the Hops.
Game two of the series comes your way at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday 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.