Hillsboro comes back against Eugene on Sunday to lock up a league playoff berth

by: COURTESY PHOTOS: CRAIG MITCHELLDYER/HILLSBORO HOPS - Steve Nyisztor (left) and Elvin Soto, shown here in a game against Tri-City on July 16, have had plenty to celebrate of late, as the Hops locked up a Northwest League playoff spot with a win against Eugene on Sunday.They did it.

They cut it close, but the Hillsboro Hops earned a spot in the Northwest League playoffs.

The Hops sealed their berth — a first since the franchise moved to Hillsboro in advance of the 2013 season — on Sunday with a 3-2 win at Eugene. Coupled with a Boise loss that night, that was enough to give the Hops the edge on the second tiebreak for the first-half NWL South Division berth, even though the team dropped its final game of the first half 13-7, also to Eugene, on Monday.

Hillsboro finished the first half with a 22-16 mark, identical to Boise’s, and the teams also split their games so far this season. But the Hops put up a better first-half record against South Division opponents — 10-8 versus 9-9 for Boise — to nab the postseason spot.

And they claimed it in dramatic fashion, going down 2-0 after four innings Sunday before scoring solo runs in the sixth, seventh and ninth frames to rally. The ever-steady Ryan Doran went seven innings as the starter, giving up seven hits but just two runs, neither of which was earned. Kyle Anderson and Zac Curtis held the Emeralds to just one hit the rest of the way, with Anderson picking up the win and Curtis earning his NWL-leading 10th save of the season.

Hillsboro got the go-ahead run — a playoffs-sealing run — when George Roberts hit into a force out at second base that Taylor Ratliff came home on. The Hops also scored in the sixth on Steve Nyisztor’s ground out that plated Galli Cribbs and on a Roberts RBI double in the seventh to score Tyler Baker.

The team has provided plenty of other highlights and news over the past week:

n The Hops put themselves in position to secure a playoff berth with a 3-2 victory against Eugene on Saturday. Hillsboro took a 2-0 lead in the second when Jake Mayers and Elvin Soto both scored on an Emeralds throwing error. Eugene tied the game in the sixth, but the Hops got their winning run on another throwing error, when Justin Gonzalez scooted home.

Ben Eckels gave up just two hits in three innings, while Dan Savas gave up four hits and both Eugene runs but picked up the win. Dustin Loggins and Luis Ramirez combined for just one hit and one walk while striking out five over the final three innings.

n Hillsboro scored a big win to keep in the playoff picture at home last Wednesday. After spotting Tri-City with a three-run lead — all on a home run to left field by Josh Fuentes — in the first, the Hops plated seven of the eight total tallies the rest of the way in a 7-4 victory. George Roberts, here playing at home on July 16, tied the game in the Hops playoff-sealing win in Eugene on Sunday with an RBI double and provided the game-winning run when he hit into a force out while Taylor Ratliff scored in a 3-2 victory.

Hillsboro answered Fuentes’ shot with two runs in both the first and second innings and then extended its advantage in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Grant Heyman to go up 5-3.

The Dust Devils cut their deficit to one run with a score in the sixth, but the Hops got two runs on a sacrifice fly by Pedro Ruiz and a single by Heyman to pad their lead. Nyisztor, Mayers, Roberts and Cribbs supplied two hits each. On the mound, Austin Platt scattered three hits and two walks while striking out six, and Curtis picked up the save with a hitless ninth.

n Eckels was named the NWL pitcher of the week Monday for the week ending July 20. A third-year pro out of Woodland, Calif., Eckels upped his strikeout count to a league-best 52 in that time frame. He made 17 batters whiff and gave up seven hits and no runs over 10 innings of work in two starts and picked up a win on July 14, when he had 11 strike outs against Tri-City.

n About two dozen members of the Arizona Diamondbacks front office are traveling to Oregon to participate in various community service projects this weekend. On Saturday, the group will help provide entertainment and dinner to area foster care families through Albertina Kerr, and on Sunday Arizona employees and Hops players and coaches will help with renovations to four Hillsboro-area homes. Foster care families and children will also enjoy an outing to Sunday’s game at Ron Tonkin Field.

n The Hops got the second half off to a winning start by pounding out 13 hits in a 13-3 win at Vancouver on Tuesday. Left fielder Heyman had three hits, five RBIs and two runs scored, while Yorman Garcia supplied three hits, four RBIs and two runs. Heyman was a triple short of the cycle, as he hit a two-run homer in the seventh and a double in the sixth. Nick Baker (3-0) gave up nine hits and three runs while striking out five, and Mason McCullough, Loggins and Cody Geyer kept the Canadians scoreless the rest of the way.

n The Hops have undergone several roster changes in the past week. Last Friday, the team released pitcher John Pedrotty and moved first baseman Bennie Robinson to Missoula, the Arizona Diamondback’s rookie affiliate in Montana. Meanwhile, Alex Byo was promoted to Class A South Bend in Indiana. A reliever, Byo had gone 2-0 in 10 appearances this season in Hillsboro. Over 19.1 innings, he gave up 19 hits, seven runs and seven walks while striking out 13, and his ERA was 2.33. Eric Brooks has been added to the roster from Class A Visalia (Calif.).

Hillsboro, now playing at Vancouver, remains on the road through Saturday before returning home Sunday to start a three-game series against Boise. After that, the Hops kick off a five-game road trip at Spokane on Wednesday.

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