The team least likely to bunt in the Northwest League used a pair of them to ignite a game-winning rally.
Daulton Varsho and Tra Holmes had back-to-back bunt base hits to start the fifth, an inning in which the Hillsboro Hops batted around and scored four times on the way to a 5-3 win at Tri-City's Gesa Stadium Saturday night.
The victory evened the five-game series at a game apiece as the Hops remained tied with the Boise Hawks atop the NWL South Division second-half standings at 9-8. Tri-City maintained a share of first place in the North Division following Spokane's 4-1 loss at Eugene.
With the Hops trailing 2-0 in the fifth, Hillsboro catcher Daulton Varsho pushed a bunt past the mound for a leadoff single. Tra Holmes followed with a sacrifice attempt that turned into a hit when his well-placed bunt between home and the mound led to an errant throw by Tri-City starting pitcher Tom Cosgrove. Cosgrove got ahead of Ryan Grotjohn before hitting the Hops' second baseman on the wrist to load the bases. A Jorge Perez fielders' choice and Camden Duzenack sacrifice fly evened the score, but with two outs, Cosgrove hit Ryan Dobson with a 3-2 pitch. Dobson and Perez pulled off a double steal with Perez scampering home when catcher Jalen Washington's throw sailed into left field. Dobson later trotted home on a wild pitch after another error prolonged the inning, giving Hillsboro a 4-2 lead.
Staked to a lead, Hops' starting pitcher Jhoan Duran retired the final seven batters he faced, completing a five inning stint on a minimum of pitches, issuing no walks with one strikeout. The Dust Devils turned a hit batter and three hits into two runs in the third inning. Duran escaped a second and third, none out jam in the second when Tri-City's Matt Batten was called out on interference, Bryan Aragon lined out softly to shot and Washington flied out to right. A potential big inning in the first never got off the ground when shortstop Camden Duzenack robbed leadoff batter Robbie Podorsky of a leadoff hit with a spectacular play in the hole. Justin Lopez followed with a drive to left over the head of Dobson, who raced back to make a tough over-the-shoulder catch to prevent an extra-base hit.
Tri-City got a run back in the seventh off Luis Castillo, but stranded the tying run at second. Hillsboro regained a two-run lead on Grotjohn's sacrifice fly in the eighth and Breckin Williams pitched a scoreless ninth for the save. Williams survived a shaky start, missing on his first seven pitches, but a second batter's interference call was huge as Aldemar Burgos got in Varsho's way on a Washington steal attempt and was called out. Williams struck out Tyler Benson and retired Lopez on a comebacker to nail down his first pro save, two years after recording a school-record thirteen saves at the University Of Missouri and a year and three days after Tommy John surgery ended his 2016 before it started.
Grotjohn reached base three times for the Hops, who were limited to five hits, but took advantage of the free passes that weren't on offer in the first game of the series.
Game three comes your way at 7:15 p.m. Sunday night. Pregame airtime is at 6:45 on Rip City Radio 620 AM.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.