There will be more baseball at Ron Tonkin Field this year.
The Hillsboro Hops will head to the Northwest League Championship Series for the third time in the team's seven-year history following a 6-3 win at Salem-Keizer and a two games to none sweep of the South Division series.
Hillsboro led wire-to-wire, holding on to a three-run lead in the ninth inning as the Volcanoes loaded the bases with two outs before leadoff batter Jairo Pomares popped out to third baseman Tristin English to end the game.
Jorge Barrosa scored three runs and Ryan January continued a late-season tear by driving in three runs for Hillsboro. January's two-run single got the Hops on the board in the first inning after two Salem-Keizer errors. Hillsboro made it a 3-0 lead in the second when Jesus Marriaga beat out an infield hit, advanced on a walk to Andy Yerzy, stole third and scored on a Lyle Lin sacrifice fly.
The 3-0 lead didn't last long as the Volcanoes plated two runs in the bottom of the second inning off Hops starter Connor Grammes. Tyler Flores roped a double into the right field corner to plate Luis Toribio after a leadoff single and a walk to Brandon Martorano. Martorano later scored on a Jeff Houghtby ground out to short.
But Grammes would hold steady, retiring the final six batters he faced before turning the ball over to Ryne Nelson (1-0). The second-rounder from the University of Oregon locked down the middle innings, handcuffing the Volcanoes on one hit and a hit batter over three innings with four strikeouts and no walks.
The Hops tacked on two runs in the fifth inning on back-to-back RBI doubles by January and Liover Peguero, then took a 6-2 lead in the top of the seventh inning when Jorge Barrosa drew a leadoff walk, later scoring on a wild pitch.
Salem-Keizer closed to within 6-3 after Harrison Freed hit a solo home run off Liu Fuenmayor in the seventh. After Justin Garcia pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, the Hops turned to 19-year-old closer Eduardo Herrera in the ninth. The 5-9 fireballer fanned the first two batters he faced before running into trouble, loading the bases on walks to Flores and Houghtby and a base hit by Freed. WIth 19-year-old Cuban prospect Jairo Pomares, the Volcanoes' leadoff hitter, due up, manager Javier Colina opted to bring Mailon Arroyo out of the pen. Arroyo saved seven games in the Pioneer League with Missoula before his promotion to the NWL, but hadn't pitched in a save situation. The right hander needed just two pitches as Pomares popped out to English in foul territory, sparking an on-field celebration.
It was Salem-Keizer's first playoff appearance since 2015, when the Hops beat the Volcanoes two games to one on the way to their second of back-to-back championships. Hillsboro limited the Volcanoes to just six hits in the series after a one-hitter in the opener at Tonkin Field Wednesday night.
Caleb Kilian (0-1), an eighth-round draft pick out of Texas Tech, was charged with the loss in only his second NWL appearnace. The right hander surrendered four hits and three runs, just one earned in four innings.
English and January each had two hits for the Hops, who open the NWL Championship Series at home Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. against the winner of the North Division series between Tri-City and Spokane. Game two of the series will be at 5:05 p.m. Sunday at Tonkin Field. The rest of the schedule with be on the road with dates and times to be determined.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.