The Hillsboro Hops have won five of six coming out of the All-Star break with a combination of strong pitching, steady defense and timely hitting late in games.
Five Hops pitchers combined for 19 strikeouts, including 10 in a row late, and Andy Yerzy hit a two-out, bases-clearing triple in a four-run seventh inning as Hillsboro (12-7 second half, 36-21 overall) came from behind to defeat the Eugene Emeralds 6-4 at P.K. Park Tuesday night.
With the series-opening win, Hillsboro improved to 5-1 on the current 11-game road trip and opened up a three game lead over the Emeralds and the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in the Northwest League second-half standings.
Eugene had a 4-1 lead in the seventh with all runs scored on homers. Will Gorman hit his fourth of the month off Emeralds' starting pitcher Brailyn Marquez in the second inning to put Hillsboro up 1-0.
In the third, Eugene leadoff batter D.J. Artis hit an opposite field, three-run homer off the foul pole. Playing in just his third game at Eugene, it was the former Big South Player Of The Year's first pro home run. It was also the first home run allowed as a pro by Hops' starting pitcher Matt Mercer, who was pitching on a very familiar mound. Mercer was a 5th-round draft pick out of the University Of Oregon, which plays its home games at P.K. Park.
Mercer fanned five without a walk and allowed three hits over three innings pitched in his second start at his former home field. Mercer retired all three batters he faced in the first inning on July 7, when the Hops beat Eugene 5-1 at P.K. Park.
Fernando Kelli added a solo home run off Kai-Wei Lin (4-1) in the fifth inning to make it 4-1 Eugene, but Lin fanned Artis to end the frame, then struck out the side in the sixth after a leadoff single by Grant Fennell.
That was just the beginning: Cristofer Ogando pitched the seventh and eighth innings for the Hops and struck out all six batters he faced in his third appearance for Hillsboro. And Chester Pimentel made it ten straight K's and 12 consecutive outs recorded by strikeout when he fanned Jake Slaughter leading off the bottom of the ninth.
The game turned in the top of the seventh. With one out and Keshawn Lynch at first after a leadoff walk, Dan Swain grounded to third. Levi Jordan threw to Andy Weber for the force at second base, but Weber pulled his foot too early. He threw to first looking for a double play and Swain was initially called out by the base umpire. After a protest from Hops manager Shawn Roof, the home plate umpire overruled and called him safe. Instead of an inning-ending double play, the Hops had runners at first and second with one out.
After Geraldo Perdomo struck out, Andy Yerzy got a hold of a 2-1 pitch from reliever Sean Barry (2-2) and drove it to the wall in left center. Kelli crashed into the fence trying to make a leaping catch as the ball ricocheted off the wall for a three-run triple, Yerzy's first as a pro. Yerzy later scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch.
The Hops tacked on an insurance run in the ninth and Pimentel pitched around a one-out Nelson Velasquez double to record his third save of the road trip.
The Hops and Emeralds play game two of the series Wednesday night. Pregame coverage starts at 7 p.m. with the first pitch at 7:05 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.