Eugene Emeralds Baseball

Crazy Season Ends With Eugene Emeralds Championship

EUGENE – The Eugene Emeralds didn’t get to play one playoff game at home.

Nevertheless, the Ems returned home this weekend with some hardware after downing the Spokane ball club, three-games-to-one, to claim the High-A West Championship in the team’s first season playing at the High-A level and playing as a San Francisco Giants affiliate once more.

The series in Spokane started with back-to-back games that could not have been more opposite from one another.

Playing the entirety of the best-of-five High-A West Championship Series in Spokane, the Emeralds wasted no time getting to work in Game One on Tuesday night. The Ems offense exploded for eight runs in the game’s first inning (yes, EIGHT runs), chasing Spokane starting pitcher Helcris Olivarez before the southpaw had even recorded the second out of the game.

Eugene went on to get five homers from four different players – Sean Roby, Ricardo Genovés (2), Franklin Labour, and Ismael Munguia – in a 15-7 rout, a dominant start to the series.

Twenty-four hours later, Game Two naturally unfolded as a pitcher’s duel that featured Eugene’s Conner Nurse and Spokane’s Chris McMahon each stymy the opposing offense to keep the game scoreless into the late innings.

It remained 0-0 until the ninth when the Emeralds offense came to life, starting with a one-out single by Tyler Fitzgerald that was then followed by Marco Luciano working a walk after falling behind in the count, 0-2.

Two batters later, Franklin Labour brought home the first run of the game with a single to left that scored Fitzgerald to put the Ems up in the ninth, 1-0. One batter later, that 1-0 lead became 3-0 when Ismael Munguia lined a double on a 3-0 count to plate both Luciano and Labour and send the game to the bottom of the ninth with the Ems up by three and needing three more outs.

Closer Chris Wright came in and did what he’s done all season long, earning his eighteenth save as an Emerald in his nineteenth opportunity to put the Ems one game away from the title.

Game Three saw Eugene play as the ‘home’ team for the first time in the series, but it was Spokane who looked right at home from the jump, leaping out to an early 2-0 lead after a scoring run in the first and another in the second.

In the fifth, Eugene cut their deficit back to one when Jairo Pomares blasted his seventh homer as an Emerald, a laser to right on the first pitch of the fifth inning that cut Eugene’s deficit in half, 2-1.

Eugene got no closer, though, as the typically clutch Emeralds offense lacked the big base knock needed to keep pace with a Spokane offense that later scored a run in the seventh and three more in the eighth to ultimately earn a 6-1 win and stave off elimination.

But the wait for a High-A title only lasted another twenty-four hours for Eugene.

Game Four saw the Emeralds send Ryan Murphy to the hill after the right-hander ended the regular season ranked third in all of Minor League Baseball in strikeouts. He delivered with a statement start, firing 5.0 shutout innings with seven punch outs while not allowing an Indians baserunner past first base.

Meanwhile, the Emeralds got on the board early behind a sac fly from Tyler Fitzgerald in the second inning that scored Sean Roby, and it became a 3-0 advantage in favor of Eugene in the fifth when top Giants prospect Marco Luciano launched a towering two-run homer to left.

The Emeralds bullpen went to work after Murphy departed following five strong innings as Taylor Rashi recorded two scoreless innings while Austin Reich worked a 1-2-3 eighth.

In the ninth, Eugene’s offense added some insurance with a pair of back-to-back big blasts when Ismael Munguia and Brett Auerbach each launched solo homers to right on back-to-back pitches, giving the High-A West saves leader Chris Wright a five-run cushion while needing just three outs to win the title.

Despite a two-out triple from Spokane’s Brenton Doyle, Wright was able to keep Spokane off the board and earn the final three outs of a championship season, capped by a groundout to Luciano up the middle that saw the Emeralds swarm the field the moment the ball hit the glove of Ems first baseman Sean Roby.

The title caps an unforgettable season in more ways than one for the Emeralds.

For starters, the 2021 season marked a new era of Minor League Baseball in the Northwest as the former short-season Northwest League (76 games) transitioned up the Minor League ladder and transform into the High-A West (120 games).

Additionally, this past season served as the first of what will be (at least) ten consecutive years as a San Francisco Giants affiliate, the first time that Eugene has played within the Giants system since way back in 1959-62.

And, perhaps most notably, this season showed the resiliency of an Emeralds team and front office that played the 2021 season under unique circumstances, most notably playing the final week of the regular season and the entirety of the High-A West Championship on the road due to the team’s annual lease at PK Park ending on September 10 and the Oregon Ducks Baseball team moving back into the facility to commence their fall practice schedule.

Despite that, the season ends how every player, coach, staff member and fan hopes it will end: with some hardware.

The title is Eugene’s third league title in five seasons after previously winning the Northwest League crown in both 2016 and 2018, a stark difference from the 41 years prior to 2016 in which the Emeralds were unable to earn a league title.

Make no mistake, however, Eugene – the team could be called the SPRINGFIELD Emeralds if city officials do not get together and get a stadium agreement done as soon as possible and that’s probably the best case of the many possible worst case scenarios playing out. The San Francisco Giants made it clear to the team that current arrangement with PK Park at the Oregon campus was not acceptable with the move up to the High-A West and though team officials have been very diplomatic about the issue it is a tremendous source of pressure on a team recovering from the pandemic’s economic impact.


  • Ismael Munguia – CF: From July 30 until the end of the regular season, Munguia batted .485 (49-for-101) with hits in 22 of 23 games played and multiple hits in 18 of those contests. Apparently, he was just warming up for the postseason. Munguia batted .632 (12-for-19) with a double, two homers, a team-high five RBIs and a whopping 1.632 OPS during the High-A West Championship Series.
  • Starting Pitchers: Seth Corry, Conner Nurse, Kai-Wei Teng and Ryan Murphy each gave the Emeralds all they could ask for in their respective outings, combining for a 1.27 ERA and 26 strikeouts over 21.1 innings of work:
    • LHP Seth Corry (Game One): 3.0 IP | 1 H | 1 R | 1 ER | 0 BB | 5 K
    • RHP Conner Nurse (Game Two): 7.0 IP | 5 H | 0 R | 2 BB | 7 K
    • RHP Kai-Wei Teng (Game Three): 6.1 IP | 5 H | 2 R | 2 ER | 2 BB | 7 K
    • RHP Ryan Murphy (Game Four): 5.0 IP | 2 H | 0 R | 2 BB | 7 K

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  • Ricardo Genovés – C: Eugene’s backstop only played in two games during the High-A West Championship Series due to being called up to Triple-A Sacramento following Game Two, but Geno was sensational in his two starts, batting .500 (4-for-8) with two homers, a double and four RBIs.
  • Marco Luciano – SS: San Francisco’s top prospect delivered when it was needed most, batting .400 (6-for-15) in the High-A West Championship Series with a double, a triple, a homer, three RBIs and a 1.238 OPS.
  • Chris Wright – LHP: Eugene’s closer did what he had done all season long: shut the door when given an opportunity to do so. Wright earned saves in both of his opportunities during the series, capping a season that saw him go 19-for-20 in save opportunities with the Emeralds.
  • The Bullpen: A primary strength of the team all season long, Eugene’s ‘pen was once again exceptional during the series, highlighted by stellar performances from Taylor Rashi (2 APPs: 3.0 IP | 0 H | 0 R | 1 BB | 6 K) and Austin Reich (2 APPs: 2.2 IP | 1 H | 0 R | 0 BB | 5 K).