When the stakes were highest in the ninth inning, clutch hitting was Tristin English's first language.
The Arizona infield prospect smacked a two-run homer in the ninth inning to lift Class A Short Season Hillsboro to a 2-1 victory over Tri-City on Monday at Gesa Stadium. The Hops lead the best-of-5 Northwest League Championship Series, 2-1.
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Scoreless in the top of the ninth, the Hops engineered a two-out rally. Corbin Carroll singled to short on the first pitch he saw from righty Angel Acevedo. English came to the plate having gone 1-for-11 in the series to that point. Dust Devils pitchers were pounding him in with fastballs and fooling him with sliders away. The 2019 third-rounder was looking for a slider on the first pitch, but got jammed by a fastball fouled off to the right side.
"I just cheated to the same pitch, fastball inside," English said. "I was able to keep my hands inside and keep it fair."
The 22-year-old first baseman lined a two-run dinger to left-center field and excitedly threw his bat down to the ground.
"I just wanted to get around the bases as fast as possible for my teammates," English said. "It was probably one of the quickest sprints around the bases that I've had in my career."
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Before the big hit, both teams were locked in a pitchers' duel. Neither team had a baserunner until Tri-City's Tre Carter bunted for a single with two outs in the third. Right-hander Luarbert Arias threw six one-hit innings with a walk and six strikeouts for the Dust Devils, while Hops starter Tyler Holton scattered four hits without a walk and nine strikeouts over seven innings.
"Holton was matching him," English said, "but it took awhile for us to get anything going.
"You kind of knew it was going to be one hit that separated the winners from the losers," the Georgia Tech product said, "and luckily today it was on our side."
The Dust Devils tried to rally in the bottom of the frame, loading the bases and plating Reinaldo Ilarraza on a groundout by Jack Stronach, Mailon Arroyo struck out Luke Becker to end the game.
Game 4 will be at 10:15 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Tri-City.