Hillsboro's offense continues its season-long slump in a loss to Boise that keeps the Hops in last place

In Tuesday evening’s Hillsboro Hops contest, some late-game heroics sealed the HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Hillsboro Hops starting pitcher Aaron Blair delivers a pitch during Tuesday's Northwest League game against Boise. Blair pitched four innings in a 3-0 loss to the visiting Hawks.

It was just the other team that provided the heroics.

Neither the hometown Hops nor the Boise Hawks could crack the scoreboard through eight innings at Hillsboro Ballpark, but Boise broke through for three runs in the top of the ninth and emerged with a 3-0 win.

Playing the second of eight consecutive home games, the Hops dipped to 8-24 overall. Since going 3-3 from July 5 through July 11, Hillsboro has dropped five consecutive games (through Tuesday) and still has not produced back-to-back wins this season.

“Pitchers did a good job,” said center fielder Taylor Ratliff, whose sixth-inning single was one of only three Hillsboro hits on the night. “They jammed us inside, couldn’t really make an adjustment early and struggled with offspeed in the dirt, and it kind of got the best of us tonight.”

Yogey Perez-Ramos produced Hillsboro’s other hits, singles in the first and ninth innings.

As might be deduced from the shutout — Tuesday’s game was just the fourth this year in which the team has failed to produce a run — the Hops had difficulty in getting their offense on track all game. In fact, no Hillsboro player advanced past second base. The Hops best opportunity came in the eighth, when Trey Masek walked Randy McCurry and Brian Billigen in consecutive at-bats with one out. But then Ryan Gebhardt grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to get the Hawks out of the inning and set the stage for the away team’s scoring sequence.

In the decisive ninth, the Hawks took advantage of two wild pitches by Hops reliever J.R. Bradley to advance base runners. They scored the winning run on a double to left field by Carlos Penalver, which plated Lance Rymel. The first insurance tally came on a perfectly placed suicide squeeze by Daniel Lockhart, who put the ball in no man’s land between Bradley and catcher Elvin Soto, neither of whom could make a play. The bunt easily scored Shawon Dunston Jr. — the son of former Major League all-star Shawon Dunston — whom Bradley had walked in the previous at-bat.

The final run of the inning came courtesy of Trevor Gretzky — you may have heard of his father, Wayne — who hit a grounder into a force out of Lockhart at second base but also scored Dunston.

In the bottom half of the inning, Perez-Ramos’ single up the middle with two outs briefly kept Hops comeback hopes flickering, but Zach Esquerra struck out on a full count pitch from Matt Iannazzo to end the game.

The loss spoiled a solid outing by Hops starter Aaron Blair and the professional debut of University of Oregon product Jimmie Sherfy, who came out of the bullpen to pitch a scoreless seventh. In between, Chase Stevens threw two shutout innings.

“It’s frustrating. I mean, our pitching staff has done amazing this year,” Ratliff said. “They’ve got one of the best ERAs in the league. They’ve kept us in ballgame after ballgame, and we’re just not finding the offense right now. We gotta find a way to pick them up, especially late in the game.”

An imposing presence on the mound at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, Blair was the Arizona Diamondbacks’ second pick of the 2013 MLB draft, taken 36th overall out of Marshall. In his third start of the season for the Hops, the big right hander pitched four scoreless innings, giving up just three hits and one walk while striking out two. Blair has yet to give up a run in nine innings this season.

“I threw well. I was able to control my fastball throughout the four innings,” Blair noted. “Throwing offspeed kept them off balance, and I was just able to have quick innings and keep guys off base.”

As for Sherfy, he received a warm welcome from the home crowd and them promptly made quick work of the three batters he faced. The Californian struck out Marra, induced a groundout from Penalver and struck out Dunston.

“He’s a little guy that throws really hard,” Blair said. “He’s just got amazing offspeed, and he was a fun kid to watch today.”

Before Tuesday night, Sherfy had last pitched in a game back on June 3, in the Ducks’ season-ending loss to Rice in an NCAA Regional.

“I definitely can pitch at this level, that’s what it told me,” Sherfy said about his Tuesday outing. “It told me that I was a little out of shape since I could barely catch my breath when I was doing a little workout. Got to get back into shape and just go back out there.”

The current home stand is the longest to date this year for Hillsboro. The Hops were scheduled to wrap up a three-game series against the Hawks on Wednesday and then open a five-game slate against Spokane on Thursday. The series against the Indians resumes tonight and continues through Monday. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. for all contests except Sunday’s, which will begin at 1:35.

After that, the Hops are on the road for three games at Salem-Keizer and then back home for a five-game series against Everett that starts next Friday.

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