HILLSBORO - The Hillsboro Hops did a lot of walking Tuesday night and after more than four hours they finally walked off with a win.
Paxton De La Garza drew a leadoff walk in the 12th inning, advanced to second on Cole Thompson's two-out single and scored when Domingo Leyba blooped a single to left that landed between Salem-Keizer shortstop Manuel Geraldo and left fielder Robinson Medrano, giving the Hops a 7-6 win and a celebratory fireworks show in front of 4,507 fans in their home opener at Ron Tonkin Field.
Four times in the game the Hops had drawn a leadoff base on balls, but had failed to score that runner. The Volcanoes walked 11 batters in total, issuing at least one free pass in nine different innings.
Cody Clark (1-0) got the win with three scoreless innings of relief. Clark, who fanned the side in his first Hops appearance in Everett, recorded his first five outs with strikeouts before Christoph Bono popped out to the Hillsboro righthander on a bunt attempt in the 11th inning.
The Hops bullpen has been brilliant through the first half-dozen games. Pierce Romero, Elbert Gonzalez and Clark combined to hold Salem-Keizer to two hits and four total baserunners over the final seven innings after the Volcanoes had run out to a 6-0 lead.
Kyle Smith began the Hillsboro comeback with a two-run homer to right center field in the fourth inning. The Hops evened the score with four runs in the seventh off Salem-Keizer reliever Hengerber Medina. Thompson began the rally with a two-out double, one of three hits on the night for the undrafted free agent out of Division II Augusta University, playing his first season of professional baseball after signing with the Diamondbacks last fall. After a pair of walks and an errant pickoff throw, Yan Sanchez blooped a double to shallow left center to score Thompson and Leyba. Sanchez' hustle put him in position to score the tying run when, after an infield single by Bryan Araiza, a Medina pitch got past Salem-Keizer catcher Rene Melendez for a passed ball.
The Hops had chances to win the game in the ninth and tenth innings, leaving the bases loaded in the tenth after a Eudy Ramos triple and two walks and putting runners at the corners with one out in the 11th before reliever Matthew Pope wiggled off the hook with a strikeout of Leyba and a Billy Endris groundout.
Salem-Keizer leadoff hitter Malique Ziegler led off the game with a solo homer to left, his second of the season. The Volcanoes went on to score six runs in the first four innings off Hops starting pitcher Matt Koch, down from the AAA Reno Aces rehabbing an injury. Koch, who appeared in a handful of games last year with the Diamondbacks, surrendered nine hits and all six runs, five of them earned before the Hops bullpen took over and the momentum turned.
Thompson led Hillsboro's 11-hit attack, going 3-for-6 at the plate. Seven different Hops scored runs in the game. Sanchez and Ramos extended their season-opening hit streaks to six games and Leyba has hit in all five games in which he has played. Endris went 0-for-6 with four strikeouts, ending his hit streak at five games.
Ziegler had three hits and two runs scored to lead the Volcanoes.
The Hops return to action Wednesday night at 7:05 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning at 6:35 on Rip City Radio 620 AM. The third game of the series is scheduled for a 1:05 p.m. first pitch on Thursday.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.