Hillsboro prevails on shortstop Ryan Gebhardt's walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 19th

Nineteen innings.

That’s not a misprint. That was in fact the length of the Hillsboro Hops’ game against the Vancouver Canadians on Sunday at Hillsboro Ballpark, a five-and-a-half-hour affair played in front of 3,459 fans — though just a fraction of those spectators remained to see the contest to its HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Braden Shipley, the Arizona Diamondbacks' first-round pick in the MLB Draft, delivers a pitch during Sunday's game.

For the home team fans who stuck around, though, the conclusion was worth the wait. Ryan Gebhardt finally broke a 4-4 deadlock that had lasted through the previous 14 innings, hitting a sacrifice fly that scored John Leonard in the bottom of the 19th and sent the Hops off with a 5-4 victory.

The final run sent the rest of the Hops sprinting from the dugout, and they swarmed Leonard in an effusive post-game celebration.

“You don’t want to play 19 innings and lose,” Leonard said afterward. “That would be miserable.”

Setting up that decisive run, Hillsboro received a gift when Leonard took two bases due to pitcher Chuck Ghysels’ throwing error. A passed ball during Taylor Ratliff’s at-bat allowed Leonard to move to third. Ratliff struck out, setting the stage for Gebhardt’s heroics.

The shortstop sent a fly ball into foul territory along the right-field line that was fielded cleanly by Vancouver outfielder Brenden Kalfus, but the throw home was off the mark just enough that Leonard scored easily after having tagged up.

“Any foul ball, we’re supposed to tag up, and that’s what it was,” Leonard said. “He slid and made a great catch, but obviously when you slide, it’s harder to get up and throw somebody out, especially from that far of a throw.”

The game easily was the longest in Hillsboro’s young franchise history, though it did not come close to the longest in Northwest League play — neither in innings played nor time duration. That distinction belongs to a 25-inning marathon between Eugene and Everett (Wash.) in 1989. Eugene won 6-5 in a contest in which the first 19 innings were played on Aug. 18 in Everett before play was suspended because of league curfew. The game resumed on Aug. 24 in Eugene and lasted a total of 7 hours, 13 minutes.

Still, Sunday’s game was lengthy by any consideration — though it was not the longest in which George Roberts has participated. The Hops first baseman, who led the team with three hits, participated in a 21-inning doozy in 2012 in Kent State’s 7-6 NCAA regional win against Kentucky. (Roberts had five hits in 10 at-bats in that one.)

“The first nine (innings) are usually all right, and then after that, like 10 through however many you go, it’s just like you’re dreaming,” Roberts said. “It’s tough, but you’ve just got to stick with it and hopefully you get a run sooner or later. You definitely don’t want to be on the losing end of one of those.”

The game was the second extra-innings affair in three days for Hillsboro, which downed Vancouver by another 5-4 score in 10 innings on July 5. In that one, Yogey Perez-Ramos’ walk-off single to center field earned the win, also by scoring Leonard.

Those wins, combined with three losses to the Canadians in a five-game series that wrapped up on Monday, brought the Hops’ record to 7-18 through Monday. The squad enjoyed a rare day off on Tuesday before beginning a five-game series at Tri-City on Wednesday. That series concludes on Sunday.

As for this past Sunday’s game, a Hops victory seemed perhaps unlikely in the early going. Braden Shipley, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ top pick in last month’s MLB Draft, pitched well in two innings in his home debut, but he did send the Hops to an early deficit, giving up one hit and one run while walking one and fanning four.

That walk came against Chaz Frank, the first batter of the game. After Shipley, a North Medford native, struck out Dickie Thon, L.B. Dantzler staked the visitors to a 1-0 lead on an RBI line drive double to left field.

Shipley was sharp the rest of the way though, striking out the next two Canadians and then retiring the side in the top of the second with a groundout, a strikeout and another groundout.

Shipley’s replacement, Austin Platt, entered the game in the top of the third and promptly gave up three runs on his overthrow to first that went nowhere near Roberts’ reach, on a wild pitch and on an RBI groundout.

But Platt settled in from there, holding the Canadians scoreless over the next six innings. In all, the 6-foot-3 right-hander scattered three hits, walked three and struck out six.

Down 4-0 in the bottom of the fourth, the Hops responded with a demonstration of offensive fluidity that has been relatively rare so far this season. Hillsboro put up five of its 15 hits and sent all nine batters in the lineup to the batter’s box in the inning. The final three runs were scored with two outs.

After leading off the inning by reaching base on a throwing error, Gebhardt kicked off the scoring on a single to left field by Jordan Parr. After a Roberts strikeout, Grant Nelson and Randy McCurry plated Yogey Perez-Ramos and Parr, respectively, with consecutive singles to center field, and William Castillo rounded out the scoring when he smacked a single up the middle to bring home Nelson.

From there, neither team would score until the 19th. In fact, the only time either team pushed a runner to third before the final inning was in the bottom of the 10th, when Perez-Ramos took third on a wild pitch, but a double play ended that threat.

“That’s the biggest reason why we stayed in the game,” Roberts said. “Our defense buckled down when it had to. Offense, we had some opportunities. We didn’t come through every time, but we stuck with it.”

In all, the Canadians used five pitchers in the contest, while the Hops used six, completely depleting their available pitching staff for the day. The last of those throwers, Yoimer Camacho, picked up the win, allowing one hit and two walks while striking out two in three innings. Before him, Daniel Gibson, Chase Stevens and Will Locante combined for seven scoreless inings of relief, giving up just two hits and three walks while striking out nine. Ghysels took the loss.

“Hats off to the pitching staff,” Leonard noted. “It was unbelievable. Our bullpen filled in for 12 innings.”

The Hops return home on Monday, when they are scheduled to kick off their lengthiest home stand of the series to date. A three-game series against Boise goes through Wednesday, followed by a five-game series against Spokane that starts on Thursday and concludes the following Monday. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. except for on July 21. That contest will begin at 1:35.

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