“Fortunately, the way the game works out is that they don’t remember what you did at your first at-bat, they remember what you do in your last,” Danny Payne said.
Through the first seven innings of the game, Eugene batters were hog-tied, collecting just two hits while striking out 12 times. Tri-City starting pitcher Bruce Billings was the focus of their frustration. Billings mowed down 11 Eugene batters in six innings of work, including the third and fifth innings where he struck out the side. He finished by facing just one batter over the minimum through six while giving up just two hits.
Billings looked to be a lock to collect the win, as the Emeralds failed on several attempts to pressure the Dust Devils. In the sixth inning, Robbie Blauer began with a leadoff single against Billings. He was, however, thrown out stealing second as Andrew Parrino struck out at the plate. Billings struck out Payne for the third time of the evening to end the inning.
The Ems again threatened in the seventh, this time against Joseph Williamson, as Eric Sogard singled into right to start the inning. In the following at-bat, Justin Baum hit into a force-out at second, but the throw to first to complete the double-play sailed overhead. Baum sprinted toward second on the error, but was thrown out by Devils first baseman Brandon Reichert.
The third time proved fruitful, though, as the Ems were able to punch through Tri-City’s tough pitching in the eighth. After recording the first out of the inning, Williamson walked Aeden McQueary and hit Justin Pickett in the shoulder to give Eugene its first runner in scoring position of the night. Craig Rodriguez relieved Williamson and immediately gave up a double to Blauer that scored McQueary. Parrino followed up with an RBI single that brought Payne to the plate for the game-winning hit.
“Really, I was just trying to put the ball in play,” Payne said. “We had a runner at third and the infield was in trying to turn two, so I figured anything in the outfield to bring in the winning run.”
Payne hit saved a good outing by the Eugene pitching staff, which limited Tri-City to eight scoreless innings after starting pitcher Corey Luebke gave up a two-run homer in the first inning. Luebke settled in over the next four innings, as he limited the Dust Devils to three hits before being removed. He finished day with five strikeouts and two earned runs off six hits in 4.2 innings. Chris Perez (3-0) entered in the fifth kept the Devils off the board for three innings to earn the win. Jackson Quezada pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up his fourth save in his last five outings. Quezada’s seven saves ranks second in the Northwest League.
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