Hops capture third NWL championship

January singles in go-ahead run in winner-take-all Game 5

Hillsboro celebrates the third Northwest League championship in its seven-year history. (Jared Ravich/MiLB.com)

By Katie Woo / MiLB.com | September 12, 2019 2:43 AM

On the night Hillsboro secured a spot in the Northwest League Championship Series, first-year manager Javier Colina made a bold statement.

"[This team] is going to deliver," he said. "We have the best team in the league. There's no doubt in my mind."

It took all five games, but the Hops proved their manager right.

Hillsboro captured its third title in six years on Wednesday, beating Tri-City, 3-1, in a winner-take-all Game 5 of the Finals as Ryan January singled in the go-ahead run in the fourth inning at Gesa Stadium.

Video: Hillsboro Hops win championship

"I can't describe this feeling," Colina beamed. "I'm so happy for them."

It was a back-and-forth series, with neither team stitching together consecutive wins. After the Dust Devils blanked Hillsboro, 6-0, on Tuesday to force a decisive fifth game, the Hops had to try to recover and win on the road. 

"The best teams in baseball always find a way to win," Colina said. "They delivered. Like I said before, they are the best team, no matter what."

Gameday box score

The Hops found themselves in an early hole as Tri City's Reinaldo Ilarraza drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the first, moved up on a balk and scored on a two-out single by  Kelvin Melean.

But that's all Tr-City could muster, while Hillsboro's offense proved timely one more time. Arizona's top three picks in this year's Draft -- Corbin Carroll, Ryne Nelson and Tristin English -- led the comeback. Carroll, MLB.com's No. 95 overall prospect, doubled home Ricky Martinez with the tying run in the third. An inning later, Lyle Lin doubled and just evaded catcher Logan Driscoll's tag to score on January's two-out single to right.

Hillsboro got some insurance in the seventh as English ripped a one-out single to center to plate Jorge Barrosa

Nelson (1-0), the D-backs' No. 25 prospect, led a smothering effort by the Hops bullpen, matching his career high with six strikeouts over three two-hit innings. Justin Garcia fanned three and worked around a walk in two hitless frames and turned the ball over to Eduardo Herrera.

Complete playoff coverage

The 19-year-old right-hander needed only 11 pitches to navigate a 1-2-3 ninth, topping out at 98 mph. He retired Luke Becker on a groundout, then punched out Nick Gatewood on three pitches. Herrera worked Sean Guilbe to a 2-2 count before fooling him on a check swing as the Hillsboro dugout poured onto the field.

"Nelson, [starter Conor] Grammes, they are two kids that just came out of college and have big league stuff," Colina said. "They dominated. Then Herrera shut the door for us. They made it look easy. They were locked in all day long and they were waiting for their moment. They're champions now."

It was the Hops' first title since 2015, capping Colina's first summer with the team, although he's been part of the D-backs organization for six seasons. He was quick to deflect the credit.

2019 MiLB include

"Tonight was unreal," he said. "When you have a team like this, full of talented kids, I don't even need to manage."

Colina ended the season with a clubhouse full of dancing players and plenty of Champagne. He also ended it with another prediction.

"We have to be one of the top three organizations in the Minor Leagues, talent-wise," he said. "I'll say this: the Diamondbacks in three or four years, we could be one of the best teams in the big leagues.

"Hey, I was right before," he added with a laugh. "I could be right again."

Katie Woo is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @katiejwoo. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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