In one pitch, it went from bad to worse for the Eugene Emeralds Monday night. Already trailing the Everett AquaSox 3-1, a eighth-inning sharp ground ball from Everett shortstop Jetsy Extrano went past Emeralds third baseman Casey McElroy and into the left field corner, scoring Everett third baseman Ramon Morla from first base, starting a four-run inning and sealing the game.
Emeralds manager Pat Murphy — and most all of the 2,127 in attendance at PK Park — were in agreement that the ball was foul, but home plate umpire Travis Eggerts wasn’t on the same page with them. After a heated protest by Murphy, Eugene’s first-year manager was ejected, watching the rest of the eventual 7-1 loss from behind his team’s dugout.
After the game, Murphy was still critical of the umpires’ techniques for watching close plays down the foul lines.
“The problem is, they try to come out and make the call, instead of just looking and seeing the call, their technique is to get out and look. Well, they’re not fast enough. The ball’s already there. The ball missed it by that much,” Murphy said as he put his hands two feet apart.
The Emeralds started the scoring in the second inning, when third baseman Duanel Jones hit a single over the head of Everett second baseman Marcus Littlewood and was driven in on a double to deep left-center field from right fielder Lee Orr. The run was the only one Eugene would record against Everett starter Jordan Pries, who went six innings, giving up one run on four hits with no walks and six strikeouts.
“Their pitcher did a heck of a job,” Murphy said. “I thought he did a good job keeping us at bay.”
Everett tied the game in the fourth inning off Emeralds starter Juan Herrera when Morla drove in AquaSox first baseman Jharmidy DeJesus on a sacrifice fly to Orr.
Littlewood redeemed his earlier gaffe in the fifth inning when he pulled a two-run home run to right field off Herrera, scoring AquaSox center fielder Jarrett Burgess, who had singled to lead off the inning.
Herrera went four 2/3 innings, giving up three runs on five hits and three walks while striking out four.
Everett’s four-run eighth-inning barrage continued after Extrano’s triple, as reliever Luis De La Cruz gave up a single to center field from AquaSox catcher Mike Dowd before he was lifted for fellow reliever Kyle Brule. Brule allowed Dowd and Littlewood to score before getting out of the inning when left fielder Nathan Melendres was caught in a rundown after his two-run double between second base and third base by Emeralds shortstop Jace Peterson, who tagged him out to end the eighth inning.
There was a scary moment with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, as Brule was hit in the temple with a glancing blow by a line drive from Everett designated hitter Ethan Paquette. Brule was dazed as he was removed from the game, but Murphy said he was not seriously injured.
The Emeralds and AquaSox continue their three-game series Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at PK Park.