"We walked off hopeful last night. We came out with the same intensity we did last night, but we found some holes and we got the early lead. That’s the big thing, getting the early lead.”
The Emeralds responded by getting the bats going early and often against the Spokane Indians on Wednesday. In the first inning alone, Eugene scored sent ten men to the plate and scored five runs.
After Mike Epping and Matt Antonelli opened the frame with consecutive walks, Freese lined a sharp single to center to bring Epping home with the game’s first run. Craig Cooper followed with a base hit through the right side to drive in Antonelli while Freese advanced to third on right fielder Grant Gerrard’s bobble. Gerrard notched his second error in as many chances when his drop of Chad Huffman’s fly ball in the right field gap allowed Freese to score from third. After a walk to Santiago Guerrero, catcher Kody Valverde hit the first of the Emeralds’ Northwest League-record six sacrifice flies to deep center field to score Cooper, who had advanced to third on Huffman’s error. One out later, second baseman Nick Kliebert laced a single up the middle to drive in Huffman with the inning’s fifth run and knock Kiker out of the game.
Eugene didn’t let up in the second inning against reliever Adam Schaecher when Cooper rolled a seeing-eye single just under the glove of second baseman Julio Santana, allowing Antonelli to score his second run in as many innings.
Spokane answered back with a run of their own in each of the next two innings. The Indians opened the third with a single by Santana through the legs of pitcher Matt Buschmann. Left fielder Brian Nelson echoed with a single just inside the right field line. Buschmann’s next pitch grazed leadoff man Craig Gentry’s helmet to load the bases with nobody out. After Wally Backman Jr. struck out on three pitches, Santana was able to score after Gerrard lined a hard ground ball to first that caromed high in the air off of Cooper where it was caught and taken to the bag by Buschmann in time to get the force at first.
Spokane first baseman Chris Kemp’s towering solo home run to right an inning later made the score 6-2 Emeralds after three innings of play. It wouldn’t stay that way for long.
Antonelli’s ringing double down the right field line, Freese’s second hit by pitch of the game and Cooper’s single to right-center field loaded the bases with nobody out. Huffman then lifted a sac fly to deep center allowing Antonelli to score from third without a play. Berkery’s boot of what should have been a double play off the bat of Guerrero allowed the second run of the inning to score. The second sacrifice fly of the inning, off the bat of Valverde drove in Cooper from third. Shortstop Tom King grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the inning, leaving the score 9-3.
Eugene’s bats picked up right where they had left off in the next inning. A Kliebert double and an Epping single set the table for Antonelli to drive in his first run of the game with a sacrifice fly to deep center. Freese knocked in two more with a laser over the left field wall for his third long ball of the year. Huffman then doubled to left field and was brought home for the game’s ninth run when Gerrard committed his third error of the game by bobbling Guerrero’s sharp single to right. And Eugene still wasn’t done scoring.
The Emeralds got three more in the seventh inning when Antonelli, who led off with a walk, scored on Freese’s double. Huffman brought home Freese one batter later with a line drove home run over the Pacific Cascade sign in right-center field.
The Ems tacked on one more in the eighth when Kliebert scored on Freese’s fly ball to right. Eugene left the bases loaded when Gentry snared Guerrero’s looping line drive into shallow center field.
Reliever Patrick Clayton retired the Indians in order in the ninth to seal Eugene’s 17-4 victory.
Despite the offensive outburst, the Emeralds are not letting the win go to their heads.
“We know how easy it is to get shut out like last night you know, we can’t take anything for granted. We got a lot of hits tonight, but we have to come out tomorrow and work hard,” Antonelli, who went 3-for-3 with four runs scored, a double and an RBI in Wednesday’s win, said.
From here, the Ems go on the road to British Columbia to open a three-game set with the Vancouver Canadians, who, like Eugene, own a 6-4 record. Geoff Vandel, who came out of the bullpen and earned his first victory of the year in Sunday’s 8-4 win against the Indians, will start game one at Nat Bailey Stadium. On the year, Vandel is 1-0 with a 6.35 ERA in 5.2 innings pitched in two appearances.