Needy puts Ems in position to win

James Needy

Eugene, OR: For a second night in a row, the Eugene Emeralds starting pitcher needed to be fleet-of-foot to dance his way out of trouble—and for a second night he was. Also, the Ems say good-bye to top prospect Cory Spangenberg, who reflected on his quick ascension to Low-A Fort Wayne.

On Sunday it was Colin Rea, and on this night it was James Needy, who did not record a strikeout while allowing seven hits during the longest outing of his professional career.

And like Sunday, a late inning rally would give the Emeralds a lead, which a tired bullpen would hold, as the Ems closed their series with the Yakima Bears with a 6-2 victory on Monday night at PK Park.

"Needy battled," manager Pat Murphy said. "He made some big pitches, and he had a five-inning outing. I think it's the longest of his pro career, so I'm pretty proud of him."

James Needy had failed to pitch past the fourth inning in his three previous starts this season. And after his last outing when he lasted just 2.1 innings, Needy was hoping to add some miles to his starts.

The right-hander, was a benefactor of an all right-handed Bears lineup. Righties are batting .185 off of Needy this season, while lefties are batting .375.

The first Bears (7-18) run to score originated from leadoff hitter Danny Pulfer, who was hit on the thigh on the first pitch of the game. Needy would commit an error on the third pitch of the game as he dropped the flip from first baseman Zach Komentani, who was fielding a sac bunt.

"I don't think I've ever heard of that. I don't think I've ever seen that, to be honest," Needy said of hitting Pulfer with the first pitch of the game. "I got myself into a little bit of trouble but got out of it and kept going with it.

"I probably let the emotions of me hitting the first guy on the first pitch get to me a little bit."

Needy was a sixth-round pick in 2009 out of Santana High School in Santee, Calif. He posted impressive numbers in 17 innings of work in the Arizona League in 2009, but a knee injury kept him off the mound in 2010.

Needy has spent 2011 acclimating himself, again, to the big leagues.

"The whole season, even in Arizona, was kind of a new experience for me," he said. "I sat out all last year, so it's kind of been a whole year of me getting back into the flow of the motion. Day by day, I've been getting better the whole season. It's been that way the whole year—being here and being in Arizona and improving every day."

Needy, who is 0-1 on the season, left the game in0line to either collect his first win or get a no decision. Unfortunately the Emeralds (21-4) offense wouldn't break the tie until an inning later leaving Needy with his 4th ND.

While they once again posted a crooked number, the Emeralds continue to strikeout at an alarming rate. Eight punch-outs on the night add to a category in which they lead the Northwest League.

Given their amount of strikeouts, it's somewhat surprising that they also lead the league in walks and on-base percentage—a testament to their ability to bat deep into counts, which Murphy says is the silver-lining.

"A lot of our guys thought it was a four-strike league, but it's only a three-strike league; that's the way they're swinging at it," Murphy said. "We want to try to cut down on those. I think we'll get better at that as the year goes on, but it's concerning."

Matt Colantonio led off the third inning with a triple on a fly ball that got over the head of the center fielder. In the next at-bat, Jace Peterson would plate Colantonio with a single giving the Ems a 2-1 lead.

Jose Dore had drove in the Emeralds first run of the game with a sacrifice fly to left field. It could have resulted in extra bases had the Bears left fielder, David Narowski, not made a leaping catch on the warning track to limit it to just an out.

Narowski would run into trouble on the next ball hit to left by Dore.

In the sixth inning, Kyle Gaedele was thrown out at home preventing Eugene from taking the lead—but not before staying in a run-down long enough to allow runner to reach second and third.

With Dore at the plate, Narowiski misread a fly ball, which landed over his head for a double and allowed two runners to score giving Dore his second and third RBIs in the game during a 1-for-3 game. Four hits in the inning would help contribute to a three-run sixth inning to give the Ems a 5-2 lead.

Despite the win, the Emeralds were out-hit 11-8 by the Bears. Jace Peterson, who went 2-for-4, was the only Ems hitter to have a multi-hit game.

After 25 games, the Ems head into their first off day of the season before they face the Tri-City Dust Devils on Wednesday. They enter their off day with a six-game lead over the Vancouver Canadians.

Spangenberg promoted to Fort Wayne

Before Monday night's game, Cory Spangenberg learned that he would be promoted to Low-A Fort Wayne.

"It's a great feeling to know that your hard work is paying off," Spangenberg said. "It's going to be hard leaving these guys. I had a great time with them; great coaches, great teammates. But I'm looking forward to starting a new relationship with my new team, soon."

Spangenberg, a 2011 first-round draft choice of the San Diego Padres, took little time to adjust to his first professional baseball experience. Through 25 games with the Eugene Emeralds at short-season Class A, the second baseman from Indian River State was batting .386 and led the Northwest League in four categories: doubles (10), on-base percentage (.556), runs scored (19) and base on balls (31).

"The kids destined to be a big-leaguer," Murphy said. "He plays the game the right way, that's what I'm most proud of is being associated with a guy that plays the game the right way. It's evident every day. He doesn't play the right way nine out of 10 times, he plays the right way all the time. It's in him. I love the kid, man. I love him. He's special to be around. That's the way that first-rounders are supposed to act."

He was twice named Northwest League Player of the Week.

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