The Emeralds and Hawks met for the final time of the season Monday night. The pitching would be the story, as Matt Buschmann’s six inningswith one unearned run allowed was followed by Jackson Quezada, Rolando Valdez, and R.J. Rodriguez each adding an inning of scoreless ball.
Hawks pitching only gave up two hits, but ended up with the loss thanks to the seven walks and two hit batsmen. Boise’s starting pitcher, Kitt Kopach, fell to 0-1 on the season, despite giving up only one hit in 4.1 innings.
Through the start of the season, the two teams have been very similar. Both teams entered the game with a record of 25-22. Both teams have been near the top of the Northwest League in several offensive categories. Boise leads the league in batting average (.266) and hits (424). Eugene is first in walks (202) and runs scored (260), and are second behind Boise in hits (422) and third in batting average (.256). Both teams have also suffered in pitching with team ERA’s at the bottom of the league. One advantage Eugene has had over Boise this season is in the win column with the Emeralds winning eight of the ten match-ups between the two.
Looking to reverse the losing trend, Hawks leadoff batter, Matt Camp, drew a walk to start off the game after fouling back several 3-and-2 offerings from Buschmann. Camp proceeded to steal second on the first pitch to the next batter, Mario Mercedes. Mercedes, who has been hitting .359 for the Hawks since being brought up, ripped the next pitch hard, but right at Tom King at shortstop who stepped on second to complete the double play, effectively ending the early bid for a lead.
After mowing down Emeralds hitters through the first three innings, allowing only one runner, Kopach started mowing Emeralds hitters down in a different style: by hitting two, Matt Antonelli and Chad Huffman, and walking Craig Cooper with one out in the fourth inning. This loaded the bases for designated hitter Willy Crafort, who lined an 0-and-1 pitch to left field that glanced off the glove of Deryck Lewis’ diving attempt. The double scored Antonelli and Cooper, giving the Emeralds a 2-0 lead.
The next inning, Huffman, the Emeralds biggest homerun threat, came to the plate with the bases loaded, thanks to three walks to Mike Epping, King, and Cooper. He proceeded to follow suit, drawing another walk to bring in the third run of the game.
The Hawks finally got on the board against Buschmann in the sixth. Mercedes dropped a flare into short left-center field to begin the inning and advanced to second on a pitch in the dirt that got away from catcher Matt Stocco. He then reached third when Stocco sailed a pickoff attempt into centerfield. A chopper to third off the bat of Josh Lansford allowed Mercedes to coast into home, as Antonelli elected to go to first for the sure out.
The only other hit for the Emeralds was Antonelli’s single in the seventh off of relief pitcher Jayson Ruhlman.
Buschmann kept the strong Hawks lineup at bay and stifled every attempt at a rally throughout the night, forcing them to go 0-for-10 with runners on base. He struck out three batters in the contest, bringing his season total up to 46, keeping him among the league leaders.
“They’re a great hitting team so anytime you come out here and do that, its always a plus,” said Buschmann. “The defense made the plays behind me. You can see I didn’t have a lot of strikeouts tonight, but when your defense picks you up like that, you can throw in the zone a lot more.”
Quezada, Valdez and Rodriguez allowed two hits and combined to strike out five over the last three innings to lock up the 26th win for the Emeralds (26-22). The Ems are now tied for second with Vancouver in the NWL West division, five games back of Salem-Keizer.
The Emeralds hit the road for a crucial three game set against the Vancouver Canadians. The first game is at 7:05 pm, Tuesday night. The Canadians have won four out of the six games they’ve played thus far this season.