It couldn't happen again, could it?
Elminated from the postseason in back-to-back years by the Eugene Emeralds, P.K. Park once again exerted its malicious mojo on the Hillsboro Hops.
The Ems capitalized on a leadoff walk and a balk to score the tying and go-ahead runs in the sixth inning and held the Hops to a single base runner the rest of the way in a 3-2 win in the opening game of the best-of-three Northwest League South Division playoffs.
It was the same sorry refrain for the Hops, who went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Adding in playoff losses from 2016 and '17, the Hops are 1-36 at P.K. Park in three seasons of postseason misery.
The Hops grabbed an early 2-0 lead on Andy Yerzy's second-inning solo homer and an RBI triple in the third by Geraldo Perdomo that plated Jorge Perez.
Matt Tabor, recently named--along with Yerzy and reliever Josh Green--to the NWL Postseason All-Star team, tossed five solid innings, allowing four hits and a walk with one strikeout. Eugene plated its only run against Tabor in the fifth. A single, a walk and a wild pitch put runners at second and third with one down. Nelson Velazquez hit a grounder to Perdomo at short, leading to a rundown between second and third as Luis Vazquez scampered home from third base.
It was 2-1 Hillsboro when fourth-round draft pick Ryan Weiss (0-1) took over on the mound in the sixth inning. Weiss walked just three batters during the regular season, but promptly placed former University of Washington infielder Levi Jordan at first with a leadoff free pass. An errant pickoff throw by Weiss moved Jordan to second. With two outs and Jordan still at second, Fernando Kelli delivered an RBI single to right to tie the game at 2-2. It was the only hit for either team with runners in scoring position.
Caleb Knight kept the inning alive with a base hit and a wild pitch put the speedy Kelli at third. With Vazquez at the plate, Weiss was called for a balk, sending Kelli home with what turned out to be the game-winning run.
The Emeralds went to their bullpen early and it turned out to be a prosperous move. Eugenio Palma fanned five and allowed just one base runner over his 2 2/3 innings after the Hops clouted four extra-base hits in the early-going against starter Eury Ramos. Newcomer Peyton Remy (1-0), just days earlier promoted from the Arizona Rookie League, came on for the sixth and promptly allowed a leadoff double to Yerzy, but retired the next three Hops to get out of the jam, allowing only one more base runner over the next two innings, while fanning five.
In the ninth, another recent AZL promotion, Ivan Medina retired the side with a strikeout for the save. Eugene pitchers combined to strike out 15 Hops batters, while the Hillsboro trio of Tabor, Weiss and Cristofer Ogando struck out just three Ems, while both walks allowed came in to score.
The Emeralds outhit the Hops 9-6, with Kelli and former LSU Tiger Jake Slaughter each collecting two. Yerzy's two hits paced the Hops. Eugene manager Steve Lerud was ejected in the fourth inning by home plate umpire Emma Charlesworth-Seiler for arguing a runner's interference call
Facing elimination, the Hops return to Ron Tonkin Field Thursday night for game two of the series. Game three, if necessary, will also be at the Tonk on Friday. Game time for both is 7:05 p.m., with pregame coverage beginning at 6:35 p.m. on NBC Sports Northwest Rip City Radio 620 AM.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.