Eugene Emeralds lose 11-6 to Boise Hawks after late-inning letdown

After the Eugene Emeralds clawed back from separate four- and three-run deficits to tie the Boise Hawks at 6-6 in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Emeralds looked to have all of the momentum on their side as the teams went into the late innings.

Instead, the Hawks (2-3) rallied to score three runs in the top of the seventh inning off Emeralds reliever Chris Haney, leading them to an eventual 11-6 win Tuesday night at PK Park in Northwest League play.

Haney had his second poor performance of the five-game season for the Emeralds (3-2), giving up three runs on three hits and two walks in one inning; Saturday, Haney gave up five runs in 2/3 of an inning while also allowing two inherited runners to score in Eugene’s only other loss so far this season.

The Emeralds also had their struggles on the offensive side, stranding 10 runners on base and only getting two runs from three different bases-loaded situations in the game. The lack of situational hitting for the Emeralds has been a problem for first-year manager Pat Murphy.

“A couple guys left a small village on base tonight, and that can’t happen,” Murphy said.

Still, Murphy realized Eugene’s loss Tuesday instead came from its performance on the mound.

“You can’t give up 11 runs and blame your offense,” Murphy said. “There’s a lot of things on the offense that are not clicking yet, but we’ve got to drive some balls in the gap and we don’t do that enough.”

The Hawks were led by center fielder Pin-Chieh Chen, who went 4 for 5 with a triple, three runs scored and three RBI, and by first baseman Paul Huilman, who went 2 for 3 with a home run, two runs scored and four RBI.

“I’ll let their manager talk about (Chen), but I’ll be glad when he’s not in the lineup tomorrow,” Murphy said jokingly.

The Emeralds started the game off in a 4-0 hole by the middle of the second inning, as Huilman’s two-run blast in the first inning and Chen’s two-run single in the second inning gave the Hawks an early lead. Eugene starter Leonel Campos lasted only those two innings, surrendering five hits and striking out four Boise batters.

“The starting pitching hasn’t been getting very deep into games, and that hurts us,” Murphy said. “Anytime you’re starting pitching this early in the season, then you’re going to deplete your bullpen a little bit.”

However, the Emeralds pieced together a three-run third inning capped by an RBI single from second baseman Cory Spangenberg that saw third baseman Clint Moore barely beat the throw home. Moore left the game after the play with an undisclosed injury and was replaced by shortstop Jace Peterson, with starting shortstop Jorge Minyety moving to third base.

Eugene gave two runs back in the fourth inning as Chen tripled home Hawks shortstop Wes Darvill; Chen scored on a throwing error from Emeralds first baseman Daniel Garce after second baseman Brad Zapenas lined out to him.

The 6-3 Boise lead was trimmed to two after Spangenberg hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score Eugene designated hitter Travis Whitmore in the fifth inning.

The Emeralds completed their initial comeback in the sixth inning, when debutant left fielder Mychal Stokes laced a double to bring in a run before later scoring on a Jorge Minyety suicide squeeze bunt to level the score at six runs apiece.

“I knew there was a guy in scoring position, so what I was trying to do was put the ball in play hard somewhere,” Stokes said.

Eugene’s surge would be short-lived, as Boise would go on to add five runs in the next two innings off Haney and reliever Matthew Stites to seal the game.

“My mind-set was, he was coming with a lot of fastballs, especially first-pitch, right down the middle,” Stokes said. “They had a little meeting on the mound and I was thinking, ‘If it’s there, I’m going to give it a whack.’ The guy made a great play.”

Stokes had an opportunity with runners on first and second and one out in the bottom of the seventh, but a sprawling grab from Zapenas at second base stymied the Emerald’s potential rally.

“That’s the game, you know,” Minyety said. “We just go and do the best we can.”

Despite the defeat, Murphy found positives in his team’s loss.

“We fought back. We didn’t lie down, by any means,” Murphy said. “You gotta give Boise some credit. They played great defense tonight and pitched in the clutch, made big pitches in the clutch.”

The Emeralds travel just up Interstate 5 tomorrow to face the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in a three-game series before going farther up the highway to Everett for a three-game weekend series against the Aqua Sox. The Hawks travel back to Boise to start a three-game series tomorrow night against the Tri-City Dust Devils.

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Kenny Ocker

Kenny Ocker