The balls were flying out of Volcanoes Stadium Sunday night.
On a night that featured eight combined home runs, Andy Yerzy's second home run of the night proved to be the difference in a 9-8 Hillsboro victory over Salem-Keizer.
Yerzy went 4-for-5 in the game with three runs batted in, including a pair of solo home runs. His two-out blast in the eighth off former Washington State reliever Ryan Walker gave Hillsboro (16-8 second half, 40-22 overall) a 9-6 lead. The Volcanoes (11-13, 31-31) still had two home runs left in them, but solo shots in the bottom of the eighth by Wander Franco and Robinson Medrano, his second, left the home team one run short.
Chester Pimentel fanned two of the Northwest League's top home run threats back-to-back to close out the game, striking out Joey Bart and David Villar to nail down his fifth save, giving the Hops a series sweep of the Volcanoes and a 9-2 record on the longest road trip in team history.
Hillsboro heads back to Ron Tonkin Field, where they will host 11 of their final 14 games. The Hops now lead the Eugene Emeralds, their next opponent, by four games in the South Division standings, while Salem-Keizer falls five games back.
The Hops had a 4-2 lead in the sixth inning when the fireworks started. Ryan Miller put the first two batters aboard in the bottom of the inning when Nick Hill lined a single to center and Miller's first pitch to Bart plunked the number two overall pick in the draft in the side. After Villar lined back to the mound and Miller tossed to first base to double off Bart, it looked like he would keep his spotless ERA intact. But Wander Franco lined a 3-2 pitch to right for and RBI single and Dalton Combs followed with a two-run home run to the left of the auxiliary scoreboard in right to put the Volcanoes back in front 5-4. Medrano followed with a homer to straightaway center to make it 6-4 Salem-Keizer. Miller had not allowed an earned run in nine previous NWL appearances.
The Volcanoes lead wouldn't last long. With one out in the top of the seventh, Yerzy launched his sixth home run of the year, a titanic shot to right field that bounced high in the air off 35th Avenue, pulling the Hops back to within one. Then, after Will Gorman was plunked with two outs, Jorge Perez pulled a 1-0 Alex DuBord pitch out of the yard to right, a two-run jack that put the Hops back in front to stay. They weren't done, though. Zach Jones, Hillsboro's little-used third catcher, an undrafted free agent signee who came to the organization via the independent Frontier League, blasted a shot into the stiff breeze blowing across the field from left, clearing the back fence beyond the picnic area in left for his first professional home run, putting the Hops in front 8-6.
After starting pitcher Jake Wong allowed a run on three hits with three strikeouts and a walk over three innings, the Hops tattooed DuBord (1-1) over his 3 2/3 innings, collecting 11 hits and seven earned runs. But the Volcanoes kept the pressure on to the end.
With a lineup full of potential big bombers, Franco and Medrano left the yard off relievr Cristofer Ogando in the eighth to make it a one-run game. Ogando struck out Ricardo Geneves and Nico Giarratano to end the inning before Pimentel worked around a two-out walk in the ninth. All five of Pimentel's saves have come on the road trip.
Hillsboro's 9-2 record on this lengthy sojourn was all the more remarkable, considering that all 11 games were decided by three runs or less. The Hops got a save in all nine of their wins, with Pimentel leading the way. Josh Green added three saves and Trevor McKenna picked up his first professional save.
Perez reached base four times on the night, going 3-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored. Both of his home runs this year have come at Volcanoes Stadium. Keshawn Lynch had his best game in a while with two hits, including a double off the center field fence, and a pair of sacrifice flies.
Hops' starter Matt Mercer struck out a season-high seven batters over a season-high four innings, allowing two earned runs with no walks and one hit batter. Mercer fanned the last five batters he faced before Kai-Wei Lin pitched a 1-2-3 fifth inning with one K. Yeison Santana (2-0) picked up the final out in the sixth struck out one batter with one walk over 2/3 of an inning.
Monday night's series opener against Eugene will air at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Northwest Rip City Radio 620 AM and ripcityradio.com with first pitch coming at 7:05 p.m.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.