EUGENE – The Eugene Emeralds (22-15) struck early, then fell behind, then came back late to net their second straight win to start a twelve-game homestand, downing the Hillsboro Hops (16-20) by a final of 7-4 on Wednesday night at PK Park.
The headline entering the game was the return of Kai-Wei Teng to the Eugene starting rotation, and the Taiwan native quickly reminded the PK Park faithful why he’s considered one of the top pitching prospects in the San Francisco Giants system by striking out the side in the top of the first.
On the other side, the Ems faced off against flamethrower and Oregon Baseball product Ryne Nelson, but the former two-way star for the Ducks wasn’t able to make it out of the second inning.
Eugene struck first against the Hops for the second straight night, and this time they didn’t even need a hit to do so. The Emeralds worked three walks in the second inning – all coming on full counts – capped by Brandon Martorano drawing a bases loaded base-on-balls to score Diego Rincones from third to make it 1-0 while also subsequently resulting in Nelson being lifted from the game.
One inning later, Eugene continued their season-long knack for two-out base knocks starting with a Diego Rincones double that was followed by a Logan Wyatt walk to put runners on first and second with two outs. Armani Smith stepped up and delivered his first RBI as an Emerald via a single the opposite way to score Rincones, and Fitzgerald followed in the ensuing at-bat with an RBI single of his own, bringing home his collegiate teammate Logan Wyatt and stretching Eugene’s lead to 3-0.
Hillsboro would not be held at bay much longer, though, as Dominic Canzone notched the first Hops hit of the day with a single to lead off the fourth inning, and two batters later Andy Yerzy belted his fifth home run of the season, a two-run blast on a two-strike count that cut Eugene’s lead back to one on one swing of the bat.
Yet despite the bump in the road, Teng bounced back in the fourth to promptly strike out the side for the second time in the game and keep the Emeralds in front, 3-2.
Teng departed after the fifth while Travis Perry entered, and Hillsboro took their first lead in that very inning behind a solo homer from Hillsboro’s Dominic Canzone that preceded an RBI single by Blaze Alexander later in the frame, together putting the Hops ahead for the first time, 4-3.
Eugene’s offense couldn’t muster much through the middle part of the game as the Emeralds failed to tally any hits in innings 4-7, but that all changed in the eighth.
Rincones and Wyatt each worked back-to-back walks, respectively, to start off the bottom of the eighth, and after Tyler Fitzgerald singled home Tyler Flores – who had entered as a pinch runner for Rincones – to tie the game and put two runners on-base, Labour tattooed his fourth homer of the season on an absolute no-doubter, a three-run blast that traveled 415 feet to put the Emeralds up by three, 7-4, with three outs to go.
In the ninth, former Texas Longhorn Tyler Schimpf entered and promptly pitched a 1-2-3 inning, setting the Hops down in order to pick up his first save of the season and seal a dramatic comeback win for the Emeralds.
With Everett’s 4-3 loss to Vancouver on Wednesday night, the Emeralds now trail the first place AquaSox by just 0.5 game in the High-A West standings.
The Emeralds and Hillsboro Hops face off again on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. at PK Park.
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