The inning started innocently enough as Tri-City Dust Devils’ leadoff man Anthony Jackson popped the second pitch of the game into shallow left-field and the waiting glove of shortstop Jesus Lopez.
From there, things turned ugly.
Brian Aguilar laced a ringing double into right-centerfield and catcher Michael McKenry took a Buschmann fastball in between the numbers to put runners at first and second with only one man down. Jeff Kindel then hit the first pitch he saw over the second base bag and into centerfield, driving home Aguilar with the game’s first run.
Buschmann recovered just long enough to strikeout Tri-City’s best hitter, Daniel Mayora, on a breaking ball that started at the letters and wound up at the shoelaces. That made two out and provided Buschmann and the Ems an inkling of hope that they would escape the inning relatively unscathed.
That hope was quickly squashed when right-fielder Bret Berglund launched Buschmann’s 1-1 offering well over the left-field wall for a three-run bomb, giving the Dust Devils a four-run lead they would never relinquish.
From there, Buschmann, fifth in the league in ERA with a 2.53 mark, was stellar. Over the next five innings he struck out eight hitters and didn’t allow a runner to reach base until Kindel slapped a one-out single in the sixth.
One thing that helped Buschmann stay on top of his game was his ability to get ahead of the hitters. Between the second and sixth innings, Buschmann threw a first-pitch strike to fifteen consecutive hitters. This streak helped him throw only 59 pitches over that span. By comparison, Buschmann threw only six strikes that weren’t hit in the first inning.
After the game, Buschmann explained his first inning struggles.
“I guess I just didn’t have that feel in the first inning. I didn’t throw strikes. I think the biggest thing was hitting that guy. If I don’t hit that guy, maybe I don’t get to the situation where I give up the three-run homer.”
He went on to explain the reason for his dominance thereafter.
“I just went out there and I think I just settled down. My last couple starts, I’ve had some problems in the first inning just getting a feel early. Second inning I went out there, slowed down a little bit and got my feel back,” Buschmann said.
Buschmann’s counterpart, Josh Sullivan, dazzled the Ems to the tune of one hit through his first two and one-third innings, before cracking.
Kody Valverde got the ball rolling when he dumped a 3-1 pitch just in front of Berglund for a one-out single. One out later, Mike Epping slashed Eugene’s second hit of the game through the middle and into right-center field, sending Valverde, who had been running on the pitch, steaming into third.
Two runners were on base for Eugene, and Tom King wouldn’t leave them there for long.
Eugene’s second baseman took the first pitch he saw and drove it to the right-center field gap and all the way to the wall. Valverde scored easily from third and the speedy Epping followed right behind him, sliding across the dish well ahead of the throw.
Eugene would tack on one more in the fourth inning to cut the score to 4-3, but didn’t threaten again until the ninth.
Chad Huffman and Michael Campbell opened the frame with consecutive singles, putting men at first and third with nobody out against Tri-City closer William Harris. Harris would settle down, though, getting Luany Sanchez to look at strike three and inducing Valverde to bounce into a game-ending 5-4-3 double play.
Eugene had its chances, Eugene manager Doug Dascenzo noted, but couldn’t cash in after the fourth.
“We had our opportunities; we just didn’t execute it when it was time to execute. But, hey, they battled. We’re going to have games like that and we’ll come back tomorrow and get them.”
Eugene and Tri-City will play the third game of five Sunday in the final series of the season between the two clubs. Eugene sends right-hander Steve Faris (0-1 5.61 ERA), fresh off solid starts against Boise and Vancouver, to the hill to try and quell the Dust Devil offense. Tri-City will counter with Andrew Kreidermacher, a righty with palindromical numbers (4-3, 4.34). Game time is at 4:05 p.m.