Eugene Emeralds Baseball

Onil Perez hits walk-off double in Emeralds 1-0 opening day victory over Tri-City 

The emotion resembled a team that had played months together, not one that had been introduced just three days prior. 

Onil Perez stood posed at second base, his helmet tossed high into the night sky. His teammates ran out of the dugout in crazed celebration, A one-hour and 59-minute game had come down to one fateful swing of the bat.

With Scott Bandura on first and two outs, Perez launched a double just out of reach of centerfielder Werner Blakely. Bandura had been off with contact, the ensuing throw home was far too late. 

The Eugene Emeralds are 1-0, “hope springs eternal” for another day.

On a night where three different Ems pitchers fired scoreless innings, southpaw Jack Choate got the dominance started, fanning four and allowing just two baserunners.  

Choate worked 90-93 with his fastball and used his breaking ball effectively. His sweeper kept numerous Tri-City batters off-balance and was used in all counts as his most reliable weapon.

After Choate evaded a one-out single in a scoreless first, leadoff man Diego Velasquez singled to left on the first pitch he saw. A pair of strikeouts followed by a grounder would end the inning as Tri-City starter Joel Hurtado threw the first of five scoreless frames. 

Perez and Zach Morgan led off the second with singles but were stranded by a pair of excellent defensive plays. Matt Higgins hit a liner to first but was robbed by a diving play by Matt Coutney. Coutney beat Perez back to the bag for the double play. Two pitches later Justin Wishkoski looked to have a single through the 5-6 hole but another diving play by Tri-City ended the threat.  

Both teams remained scoreless through three as starting pitching dominated the early going on a cool Eugene night. Choate, in particular, was effective early, facing just two batters over the minimum and limiting hard contact. 

Quinn McDaniel hit a two-out double over the centerfielder’s head but was stranded, the Emeralds left six runners on base compared to three of Tri-City. 

Choate continued to deal, he began to utilize his secondary pitches more the second time through the lineup. The 6’6 lefty flashed a curveball and a devastating changeup that kept batters off-balance and at times was difficult for his catcher to handle.

Dylan Cumming entered in relief of Choate and fired a scoreless fifth. The Dust Devils mustered just one hit through the first five frames of a game largely devoid of hard contact and offense at all. 

It’s a common occurrence in professional baseball that pitching dominates early season games, that much proved to be the case on opening day. Tri-City had just two knocks on the day, both of which were singles.l 

With the game lacking in offense, Justin Wishkowski — who added a one-out single in the fifth — left early and stole second despite a pick-off move from Hurtado. His aggressive baserunning would go for naught as Diego Velasquez flew out to end the scoring threat. 

Cumming continued the night’s trend of superb pitching firing three scoreless frames. He worked in the low 90’s and filled up the strike zone well, four of his five strikeouts came on breaking balls.

McDaniel’s second knock of the day came in the form of a single with one down in the second. He advanced to third due to an errant pick-off and wild pitch from new reliever Dylan Phillips. The next two hitters would record outs, ending the once-promising threat. 

A Coutney single with two down gave the Dust Devils their first base runner since the second inning, but Cumming’s strong outing continued as he retired the next batter via a groundout. 

Jared Southnard entered in the seventh for Tri-City and fired two scoreless innings of relief. Southland located all three of his pitches well and faced the minimum in his first outing of the year. 

On the Ems side, Cam Cotter returned the favor retiring all six of the batters he faced in relief of Cummings. Cotter was superb in relief and recorded the first win of the season. The second of his two scoreless frames sent the game to the bottom of the ninth with both teams in a scoreless tie. 

Camden Minacci did not have the same success as all pitchers prior. 

Bandura lined a single to center two pitches into the right-handers’ night. Minacci retired the next two batters he faced before Perez lined an elevated fastball into left-center. Blakely’s sliding catch attempt came up empty, sending a restless P.K Park crowd into oblivion. 

It’s fitting that players who have been in Eugene for less than a week combined for the epitome of a team win. Perez’s double was the second extra-base knock of the day. And the only one that mattered. 

On a cloudy day where a game once seemed unlikely, the atmosphere ended as nothing short of electric Friday night at P.K Park. Although the rest of the season will likely come with more offense, the Ems (1-0) hope the result remains the same. 

Game two of the series is set for 7.05 on Friday. Emeralds southpaw Hayden Wynja will toe the rubber against Jorge Marchecho. 

By: Joe Krasnowski 

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 or call the Emeralds front office at 541-342-5367. • • •