Onil Perez Completes Comeback With Walk-Off Winner

By: Joe Krasnowski

EUGENE, OR – As Yogi Berra said, it’s getting late early out there.

Thursday’s game marked game 18 of the young season, the chaos of the early slate of games has overshadowed that the season is now 13.6% over.

Which made the potential of a second-straight bullpen collapse that much more painful. 

Andrew Pintar launched a three-run bomb off of Tyler Vogel in the top of the 10th. The blast looked to have put the game away for the Hops as some of the darkest skies we’ve seen this season swirled above P.K Park as rain poured on the Emeralds who were faced with a loss they could barely afford to take.

Luckily for the Ems, Onil Perez has a thing for walk-offs. His single resulted in a four-run cathartic comeback in the 7-6 win for Eugene (14-4).

After giving Eugene the victory with a single to right, Perez’s main celebration was to just keep running. 

Snatching a victory on a night when Eugene didn’t deserve one, his celebration was simple, to just keep sprinting he made his way to the “O” in center field while his teammates met him with an avalanche of glee. Hillsboro players stood shocked, unable to fathom what had just happened.

It was Perez’s second walk-off of the season, the first coming on opening day.

Another highlight from the victory, Manuel Mercedes had his best outing of the young season Thursday evening.

It wasn’t difficult to diagnose the reason why.

During an inconsistent opening month to the young righty’s season, Mercedes’ sinker command was too often lacking. Touted as his most reliable — and dangerous — weapon during last year’s 3.64 ERA breakout season in San Jose he had struggled to gain any consistency.

The right-hander’s ability to locate the sinker — or, more precisely, avoid throwing it down the middle of the strike zone — had eluded him as he posted a 6.52 ERA through his first three starts.

His performance Wednesday night was a welcomed rebuke to his previous shortcomings. He induced six ground balls over his outing, the majority of the rest of his outs were strikeouts, seven of them to be exact. He walked just one.

He lagged a bit in his third inning of work, allowing the first run on a Gavin Conticello RBI single. But a diving play from second-baseman Justin Bench preserved the lead going into the bottom of the fourth. 

Mercedes quickly settled down and — despite his pitch count increasing and rain beginning to fall — topped at 95 in his scoreless, hitless final frame of work. 

Hillsboro starter Avery Short wobbled, boy did he ever, but remained unscathed tight-roping out of danger on multiple occasions. After the two runs scored in the first he blanked Eugene throughout his start. A runner reached second in all four of his 3.1 innings of work but his final line had just the two runs allowed. 

Eugene was just 1-6 and left six runners on through the first three frames and finished with 14 stranded on the day.

2023 second-round pick Gino Groover shoved in relief for Hillsboro, he threw 3.1 scoreless innings allowing one hit. 

Matt Mikulski came in relief of Mercedes and promptly allowed a triple, double and single — in that order — to the first three batters he faced. Mikulski had thrown ten pitches and was a homer away from “allowing” the cycle, all without a run being recorded. 

Mikuski rolled up a double-play to the next batter he faced, and although surrendering the lead was able to minimize the damage. He threw a scoreless seventh and his ERA now rests at 2.00.

Eugene knotted it in the seventh as Hillbsoro’s bullpen collapsed twice on the day. Liam Norris walked two and brought in the tying run on a base on balls. 

Tyler Vogel put runners on the corners with two outs in the ninth, but a clutch strikeout kept it tied.

Extra baseball was needed to determine a winner on a night where five innings was the goal due to stormy skies

And for the second-straight night, Eugene’s bullpen crumbled. Andrew Pintar’s bomb was a no-doubter off the bat and a dagger of sorts to the previously low-scoring contest. 

Until Hilbsoro returned the favor. 

It was a debacle two times, a disaster squared. The Hops’ bullpen fell to pieces while Eugene’s offense rose to every moment that mattered.

The first three Emeralds of the bottom of the tenth reached base, before errant throws from Armando Velasquez nestled in the fencing behind third base. Two runs came in to score on the play. Diego Velasquez’s sac fly knotted it at six and promised Eugene would yet again refuse to go down.  

One cathartic swing from Onil Perez later, and Eugene was victorious, snatching a victory where it certainly didn’t deserve one. 

Perez’s single capped off Eugene’s biggest comeback of the year, and kept Eugene in first place.

The Eugene Emeralds are the High-A affiliate of Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants. The Eugene Emeralds are dedicated to providing the best in family entertainment and creating a fun, safe environment for everyone to enjoy watching a baseball game. For more information, please visit our website at www.EmeraldsBaseball.com or call the Emeralds front office at 541-342-5367. • Emeraldsbaseball.com • Facebook.com/EugeneEmeraldsfanpage • Twitter.com/EugeneEmeralds