“I don’t ever really consider myself a power hitter,” Justin Pickett said. “You never go out there expecting to hit a home run.”
Pickett’s two-run shot in the bottom of the second inning helped lift the Eugene Emeralds to a 4-2 victory over the visiting Boise Hawks.
The win kept the Emeralds (5-2) on pace with Salem-Keizer and Vancouver, both of which are tied for the Northwest League Western Division lead with 6-1 records. With Everett’s win over Tri-City, the Emeralds are actually tied with Everett for last place in the heated West.
The loss further drops the Hawks (0-7) to bottom of the Northwest League’s Eastern Division, which has yet to feature a winning team. The Spokane Indians lead the East with a 3-4 record.
Once again, Eugene jumped out to a quick lead, the third game in a row in which the Emeralds have scored first. Luis Martinez, playing catcher in place of Pickett, got on base with a sharp grounder that shot between first and second base. Pickett, batting as the designated hitter, followed Martinez with his shot against Alberto Cabrera that ricocheted off the flagpole behind the left field wall.
The Emeralds tried to stay ahead behind the work of starting pitcher John Hussey, who carried a shutout through three hitless innings before running into trouble in the fourth.
Hussey led off the inning by walking Dylan Johnston. Marquez Smith then skipped a quick grounder under the glove of third baseman Justin Baum. With runners on first and second, Steve Clevenger lined a single to right center field, scoring Johnston and sending Smith to third. After a Ty Wright shallow fly to right field, Derek Schermerhorn hit a chopper to Baum. Baum tried to throw out Smith at home, but under threw it, and the ball rolled past Martinez to the backstop. Hussey retired the next two batters to finish the day with two runs, one earned, and four strikeouts in four innings.
The Ems struck back in the bottom of the fifth when Martinez hit a towering solo shot to center field off Cabrera, lifting Eugene to a 3-2 advantage.
“Luis is great, he’s unbelievable,” Pickett said, who played against Martinez in junior college. “I’m really glad he’s on our team. He’s really going to help our organization out a lot.”
Eugene tacked on an insurance run in the seventh after Pickett singled to shallow center field. Two consecutive wild pitches by Jordan Latham moved Pickett to third, and scored on a single by Baum that caromed off Schermerhorn’s mitt at first base.
The Emeralds closed out the game with five scoreless relief innings by Colt Hynes, Matt Huff and Jackson Quezada. Hynes (1-0) gave up just two hits in three innings to earn the win while Quezada struck out one in a perfect ninth inning to pick up his second save in as many days.