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Hops dig into second half of Northwest League schedule


After winning the South Division in the first half, Hillsboro looks to continue developing its players

Tuesday was just one of those nights.

The Hillsboro Hops have been pretty consistently solid during their second season in town, but Tuesday against Boise, the team’s pitching, fielding and hitting all were off in a disappointing 11-2 loss in front of 3,633 fans at Ron Tonkin Field. Photo Credit: COURTESY PHOTO: CRAIG MITCHELLDYER - Pedro Ruiz hit a walkoff home run against Boise on Sunday night.

The Hawks put up a whopping 20 hits in the contest — including eight off starter and Oregon State product Scott Schultz — and scored at least a run in each of the first seven innings. Meanwhile, the Hops did not record a hit until the fifth and committed five errors in the field. Danny Lockhart paced the visitors with four hits, three runs and two RBIs.

The result was a bit of an aberration during the second half. Through Tuesday the Hops sat at 5-3, tied for second overall in the Northwest League, just a game back of Salem-Keizer in the South Division. Despite their success in 2014, though, the Hops are still looking for their first series sweep this summer.

“Sweeps would be great,” manager J.R. House said. “You try to win series, and if you can be greedy and have sweeps, it’s even better.”

With the Hops having won the first half to lock up a playoff berth, House said the first priority is to keep developing players for their careers. Hillsboro should get plenty of chances to do that, as the team sports a new look after welcoming four new players on Tuesday.

“It’s a long travel day for them, meeting everybody, there’s just a lot going on,” House said. “But they’re here to play, so you get them in the lineup. Hopefully that learning curve is short and they can start producing.”

Those new faces are catcher Stryker Trahan, a first round draft pick in 2012; Zach Esquerra, an NWL all-star last season for Hillsboro; Kevin Cron, whose brother C.J. plays for the Los Angeles Angels; and pitcher Tyler Toyfair. George Roberts was moved to Class A South Bend, while Tyler Baker, Taylor Ard and Yorman Garcia were moved to Diamondbacks rookies affiliates.

Among other Hops news:

• An undisputed highlight of the season came Sunday in front of a sellout crowd of 5,052. The game went to extra innings and then looked like it might go the Hawks’ way in the 10th when Charcer Burks scored on a throwing error by Pedro Ruiz for a 3-2 Boise lead. But Ruiz redeemed himself in the bottom of the inning, smashing a home run to right field for a 4-3 walkoff victory that sent Hillsboro into celebration mode. The homer plated Taylor Ratliff, who had just been walked. Nick Baker gave up six hits and two runs over six innings, and Zac Curtis picked up his first win of the season despite giving up that run in the 10th.

• Hillsboro followed that effort with a 6-1 dismantling of Boise on Monday. The Hops started strongly with two runs in the first and then answered after the Hawks halved that lead in the third. One inning later, the Hops scored three runs on Grant Heyman’s single, a steal of home plate by Roberts and a wild pitch that allowed Heyman to score. The team iced the game with Ruiz’s RBI groundout in the fifth. Four Hops pitchers combined for five hits, the one run and nine strikeouts. Dan Savas earned the win.

• The Hops picked up a 7-3 win last Thursday in a makeup of a Wednesday rainout, as well as a 6-3 victory against the Canadians the following day. In the Thursday win, Hillsboro initially took the lead but trailed 3-2 after four innings. The Hops exploded for five runs in the fifth to pull away. Taylor Ard led off the barrage with a solo home run. Tyler Baker followed with an RBI base hit, and then Jordan Parr launched a two-RBI double. Ratliff capped the scoring with a single to left field to score Parr, who led the team with two hits, two RBIs and a walk. Schultz, moving to 2-2, scattered eight hits and three runs over 6.2 innings.

• The team also had the last word in its 6-3 victory last Friday. After cruising to a 4-1 lead through four innings, the Hops saw their advantage narrow to 4-3 in the sixth before adding two runs in the seventh. That inning, Heyman doubled to score Ard, and then Jake Mayers knocked a line drive to left field to plate Heyman, who had two hits, two RBIs and a run scored. Ryan Doran upped his record to 3-3, mixing eight hits and three runs over six innings. Curtis threw a scoreless ninth to pick up his 11th save.

The Hops are in the midst of a five-game stint at Spokane, which continues through Sunday. After that, the team is off for three days for the Northwest League all-star break (see story on page A18). Hillsboro returns home next Thursday for the first of four home games against Eugene and Salem-Keizer.