Cooper, Emeralds squash Aquasox

Craig Cooper

EUGENE- Eugene's Craig Cooper did not enter Thursday's game against the Everett Aquasox among the league leaders in RBIs. But with one swing of the bat, he would be among the elite.

Craig Cooper blasted a 1-1 pitch over the leftfield wall for a grand slam in the fourth inning, helping to propel the Emeralds to a 13-2 win Thursday against the visiting Everett Aquasox (Mariners).

"The first two pitches I saw from the guy were both sliders," Cooper said of his grand slam at-bat. "And he made a mistake. He left another off-speed pitch up a little bit and I just was able to stay through it."

Cooper, who entered the game with 21 RBIs, finished the day with a team-leading 26.

He showed no ill effects after taking a ball off the forehead during Wednesday's practice. Cooper said he felt dizziness prior to yesterday's game and last night but was ready to go today.

"I'm feeling much better today," Cooper said with a smile after the game.

With Cooper (five RBIs), catcher Kody Valverde (four RBIs) and rightfielder Willy Crafort (three RBIs) providing more than enough offense, Matt Buschmann pitched another gem.

He worked 4.2 innings Thursday, giving up two hits and no runs. He struck out five and walked only one.

"I came out here just trying to ride the wave I've been riding the last couple outings," Buschmann said. "I feel comfortable with my fastball and when you can locate that, things kind of fall into place for you. I've just been confident on the mound out there."

In his last four outings, Buschmann has pitched 16 innings, surrendering only six hits and no runs. He's struck out 21 and walked only two.

"He's done well. We're very happy with Buschmann," Dascenzo said.

Buschmann received some early run support when the Emeralds jumped out to an early 2-0 advantage in the first inning. Mike Epping led-off with a single and then stole second. Tom King walked, and Cooper drove in the game's first run and his first RBI with a one-out single past Everett's Joe White at first. Chad Huffman followed with a walk to load the bases for Valverde.

Valverde popped the ball foul into right field. The catch was made but King tagged from third and slid into home safely when catcher Jair Fernandez could not handle the ball on the tag.

Valverde recorded his second and third RBIs of the game, and 11th in his last six games, when he drove in Matt Antonelli and Cooper with a two-out double in the third inning to put Eugene ahead 4-0.

"It feels good," Valverde said of his recent success with hitters in scoring position. "Coach (Tom) Gamboa came out here this week and he worked on my swing a little. I've had chances with RBI situations, and I've made contact and put good swings on it."

In the fourth inning, the Emeralds blew the game open with Cooper's grand slam. The inning started with third baseman Brian Lauderdale's one-out walk. Epping followed suit with a walk. Antonelli, after falling quickly behind 0-2, then drew a walk on four consecutive balls to load the bases for Cooper, who put the Emeralds in front 8-0 with his fourth homerun of the season.

The Aquasox got on the board for the first time against Eugene's Drew Miller in the sixth on an RBI single by Bryan Sabatella, which scored Marcos Villezcas.

But the Emeralds added to the Aquasox's misery with another four-run inning in the sixth. Epping led off with a double and scored when Antonelli hit a scorcher on the ground to short. The ball was mishandled, Epping scored and Antonelli was safe at first on the error. Cooper followed with a single, as did Huffman, to load the bases for Crafort, who added some insurance for the Emeralds with a base-clearing double off of a shot down the leftfield line. Eugene led 12-1 at that point.

Everett managed one in the seventh and Eugene tacked on one in the eighth when Antonelli scored off of Valverde's fourth RBI of the game for the 13-2 final.

Antonelli made his return to the lineup as the designated hitter after missing seven days with a contusion on his hand that he suffered against Tri-Cities on a bunt attempt. He finished Thursday 0-for-2 but did score four times.

Nick Tucci picked up the win for the Emeralds, his second of the season. He went one-third of an inning after replacing Buschmann and gave up no runs or hits. Three other pitchers saw action on the mound.

Thursday marked the third time in four games that the Emeralds' offense has posted double digit runs. Eugene pounded out 10 hits, led by Cooper's 3-for-5 night. Epping was 2-for-4, as was Huffman.

"They did good tonight. It seems like the last game of the homestand is a good day for us," Dascenzo said. "Hopefully we can carry it into the road trip. The team is starting to come together a little more."

Eugene now heads to Yakima (Arizona) for a five-game series.

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