Sunday evening was a good night for the Eugene Emeralds, until it wasn’t.
Up 6-3 heading to the eighth inning, Eugene manager Lance Rymel sent right-hander Raidel Orta to the mound looking to maintain a three-run lead and open the two-game set with Salem-Keizer with a win. What happened instead was anything but.
Walk. Single. Pop out. Single. Walk to score a run. Grand slam.
That was the sequence in the Salem-Keizer eighth that tipped the scales for good. The home run, by the way, was not a cheap one. First baseman Tyler Flores sat on a 3-1 fastball and sent it onto the roof of the bullpen in right field. The Volcanoes went up 8-6 at that point, tacked on two more in the ninth inning for good measure and ultimately came away with a stunning victory.
Eugene spent most of the night playing good baseball, so there were some positive takeaways despite losing in heartbreaking fashion. Second baseman Chase Strumpf, playing in just his fourth game as an Emerald, put two balls off the wall and notched two additional hits as part of a 4-for-5 effort. Strumpf, only about 48 hours earlier, struck out four times in a blowout loss to the AquaSox on Friday night.
“Not worrying about those four K’s and just getting back to what made me successful,” Strumpf said. “Just be comfortable up there. Just relax.”
Baseball is, of course, a team game. But the majority of the Emeralds roster turns over from year to year, and class A short season is often more about player development than it is about wins and losses. For Strumpf, he’s able to find things within the game to work on even when games may be out of hand on the scoreboard.
“Just working on the small things and getting better there,” Strumpf said. “If I’m consistent offensively I think it’ll carry me a long way, and just getting better at my craft on defense every day.”
As for the pitching side of things, it was a bullpen game once again for the Emeralds. Righty Jake Burgmann started and went just one flawless inning. In total, six different pitchers were used for Eugene, including Orta who surrendered the big blow and took the loss. Clay Helvey got the win for Salem-Keizer, pitching three crucial innings in the sixth, seventh and eighth.
Bounce back duties will be tasked to Zach Mort, who is scheduled to take the hill for the Emeralds in the finale of this quick two-game set Monday night at 7:05 p.m., with the Volcanoes’ starter still TBD. Tuesday will be a travel day for both teams as they make their way north to Salem to open a three-game series on Wednesday.