“Let’s play two!” the Eugene Emeralds’ in-stadium announcer Ted Welker said enthusiastically as fans settled in their seats at PK Park on Friday. The Emeralds suited up in Eugene for the last time in 2021 (barring any postseason games), playing the first game of a doubleheader against the Everett AquaSox with a 4:05 p.m. start time.
Ismael Munguia provided all the heroics, leading Eugene to a 2-1 victory. He tied it up with a solo homer in the fifth and walked it off in the bottom of the seventh. Conner Nurse continued his recent dominance on the mound, pitching a complete game with double-digit strikeouts for the first time in his career.
Nurse struck out the first batter he faced, but quickly got into trouble with a single and a walk. The runners attempted a double steal, trying to put early pressure on Eugene as they’ve done all season. But catcher Ricardo Genoves made an incredible throw, somehow avoiding the batter and firing a rifle over his head to catch the lead runner.
Nurse recorded his second strikeout of the inning to keep Everett off the board.
After a one-out double in the second inning for the AquaSox, the runner advanced to third on a passed ball by Genoves. But Nurse recorded a clutch strikeout and a fly out to escape with no damage.
On the offensive side, the Emeralds collected three singles in the first two innings, but they didn’t amount to anything. The first five Emerald outs were strikeouts.
Nurse gave up a walk and a single in the third and a pair of singles in the fourth. But he worked out of trouble each time, playing with fire but keeping the game scoreless.
The tie was finally broken in the fifth inning when Nurse surrendered a homer — ironically with no runners on after he’d been working around baserunners all afternoon.
Munguia returned the favor in the bottom of the fifth, poking a solo homer of his own into the right field corner. He yelled in excitement and pumped his fists as he rounded first base.
Nurse wound up pitching all seven innings in regulation, giving up just one run while striking out a career-high 10. He owns a 1.84 ERA over his last five starts, with 34 strikeouts, 11 walks and 23 hits allowed in 29 1/3 innings.
Carter Aldrete doubled with one out in the bottom of the seventh to set things up for Munguia. After initially falling behind 0-2, Munguia slapped one into right field for a walk-off single. The Emeralds emptied the dugout and the bullpen, rushing in to pile on top of Munguia and celebrate their sixth straight victory.
The Emeralds have won all four games this series and now lead Everett by 4.5 games in the High-A West. There will be just one more regular season game at PK Park in 2021, starting roughly 40 minutes after the completion of game one.