The offense got going early for Eugene, with Tom King reaching on a one-out walk and Craig Cooper driving him to third on a double slashed into the right-field corner. Cleanup man Chad Huffman followed with a six-pitch walk to load the bases for Michael Campbell.
Although the offense seemed to be firing on all cylinders, King had to be removed after stopping too quickly and twisting his ankle rounding third base on Cooper’s double. He stayed in briefly, but left after Huffman’s at-bat in favor of pinch-runner Jodam Rivera.
Rivera scored when Everett starter Chris Tillman’s pitch rolled to the backstop and Campbell drove Cooper and Huffman home on a ground-ball single past the dive of Marcos Villezcas and into center-field.
Everett came up with two runs of its own in the second on an error by Willy Crafort and a run-scoring infield single by Brian Sabatella.
With its advantage trimmed to just one, Eugene’s pitching and defense took over and made that lead stand up.
After his hiccup in the second, starter Drew Miller settled down and faced just two hitters more than the minimum over the next four frames. During that span, the Ada, Okla. native struck out four AquaSox hitters and at one point retired six men in a row.
As dazzling as Miller was from the second on, his defense was just as good. After Joe White singled with one out in the third, first baseman Manelik Pimentel banged into a 6-4-3 double play. Two innings later Huffman picked up a web gem by snaring a knee-high line-drive off Villezcas’ bat to help keep Miller rolling.
“I kept trying to keep them on their toes with strike one, and then strike two they were swinging at it. They knew it was either coming to them or in to the catcher. I’m glad they were behind me,” Miller said afterward of his and his defense’s performances.
After adding another run in the fourth on Crafort’s 6-3 double play, Eugene decided it was time to tack on a bit more insurance. This time though, the Emeralds did it in style.
Luke Cannon led off the sixth inning by launching a chest-high change-up over the wall in deep right-center field. Huffman replicated Cannon’s feat one inning later with a moon shot of his own, this time to left-center.
Eugene had increased its lead to four, a lead which, come the ninth, they would sorely need.
With one out and one man on, Everett’s seventh hitter, Carlos Peguero, stepped to the dish against closer R. J. Rodriguez. With a mighty cut, Peguero hit a ball to right-field that, by all accounts, is being considered by NASA as the leading candidate to replace Pluto as the ninth planet in our solar system.
With the lead now sliced sharply in half, Rodriguez buckled down and retired the next two hitters in order to preserve the win and notch his 13th save of the season.
An already sweet win became exponentially sweeter after the game for four key members of the Ems’ offense. Huffman, Cooper, shortstop Jesus Lopez and third baseman Matt Antonelli, it was revealed, had been promoted from Eugene to San Diego’s long-season single-A affiliate, the Fort Wayne Wizards.
The situation now changes dramatically for the quartet of now former Emeralds. In Eugene, they were playing for a team that had been mathematically eliminated from the postseason two days earlier. In Fort Wayne, they will be thrust onto a team fighting for a playoff spot.
“Eugene’s a great place,” Huffman began. “Coming in here I had high expectations of professional baseball, and it has, by far, exceeded all of my expectations. It’s a great place to play…Oh, no question. They’re hot right now. They’re making a push for, and will probably be in, the playoffs…it’s always great to go up there with those guys and try to win a championship.”
Minus four of its key players, the rest of the Emeralds now take a day off Monday before heading to Washington and Salem for their final road trip of the year. The Ems will play three more against the AquaSox and then begin the first-half of a six game home-and-home series against the division-champion Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.