The Eugene Emeralds lost 11-5 to the Hillsboro Hops on Saturday night at PK Park. The offense struggled against first-round pick Slade Cecconi, and Eugene starter Conner Nurse pitched four dominant innings before falling apart in the fifth. The offense was silent until an explosion in the ninth, but at that point it was too little, too late.
Nurse hit the ground running, striking out the side in order in the first inning.
Cecconi, the Diamondbacks’ 2020 first-round pick, made his professional debut on the mound against the Emeralds. In his first inning, he struck out fellow first-rounders Patrick Bailey and Will Wilson in a perfect frame.
Nurse pitched a scoreless second, and struck out the side in order once again in the third.
After looking lost in the first two innings against Cecconi, the Emeralds began to slowly figure him out in the bottom of the third. Brandon Martorano led off with a single, but was erased on a double play. Simon Whiteman walked and stole second, and Bailey battled before striking out on a questionable check swing call.
Nurse struck out two more in the fourth. He had eight strikeouts through four scoreless innings, with his fastball sitting at 93-94 miles per hour.
A walk and a single against Nurse put runners on the corners with one out in the fifth. Bailey attempted to pick the runner off third, but threw it into left field, allowing the game’s first run to come home. A single brought in a second run, followed by a two-run homer that made it 4-0 and pulled Nurse from the game.
The bleeding didn’t stop there. The Hops rallied for five more runs off reliever Jasier Herrera, capped by a towering three-run blast to left field. They totaled nine runs in the inning, sending 12 men to the plate.
With a 9-0 lead, the Hops pulled Cecconi despite the fact that he threw four masterful innings on only 45 pitches.
Herrera took one for the team, coming right back out for the sixth. This inning went much better for him, as he set the Hops down one-two-three with a strikeout.
Hillsboro rubbed salt in the Emeralds’ wound with a two-run homer off Bryce Tucker in the seventh that made it 11-0.
The Emeralds recorded their second hit of the game in the seventh, when Logan Wyatt, making his professional debut in left field, broke out of a slump with a triple. He didn’t score though, as Hilllsboro’s Matt Tabor finished his third scoreless inning in relief.
Tyler Schimpf was the lone bright spot on the pitching side for Eugene, as he retired all six batters he faced with two strikeouts.
In the ninth, Tabor came out for a fifth inning in relief. Bailey led off with a solo homer to get the Emeralds on the board after he struck out in his first three at-bats. Wilson then followed with another homer, as the two first-rounders went back-to-back.
Wyatt drew a walk and Sean Roby singled as the first four Emeralds reached base in the ninth. Franklin Labour then reached on catcher’s interference to load the bases with still no outs.
A wild pitch brought in a third Eugene run, and a walk prompted Hillsboro to finally pull Tabor. The new pitcher Julio Frias was rudely greeted with a two-run single that made it 11-5.
Bailey, who led off the inning with a home run, made the final out as the comeback was short-lived.
The Emeralds (7-4) fall behind 3-2 in the six-game series against the Hops (5-6). They’ll look to even it up Sunday night at 7:05 p.m.