by Sam Finley, EDN
A lot happened in 1973. Elton John released his epic album “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” Roger Moore debuted as James Bond in “Live And Let Die.” And the Walla Walla Padres tied a Northwest League record of 13 consecutive wins that had been set by the Rogue Valley Dodgers in 1969.
Last night the 38 year-old record fell, as the Eugene Emeralds won their 14th straight game by defeating the Vancouver Canadians 9-3 in front of 4,601 fans at PK Park. Perhaps there is a slight irony that, as was the case with Walla Walla in ’73, the new record for consecutive victories in a NWL single season came from a San Diego Padres affiliate. That aside, this team definitely understands that this wasn’t just another win in the standings.
“It’s a great win for this town,” said Ems’ manager Pat Murphy. “It’s great for the Eugene Emeralds. This organization has been around for a long, long time. So it is special to bring the fans a record that they can remember and enjoy. It’s also kind of neat for a team full of guys just out of high school or college to experience something like this together.”
The Ems’ achieved the milestone on Tuesday in the same way they’ve won every game this season: Timely hitting resulting in many runs, starting in the bottom of the second inning.
With the score tied at 1-1 and Matt Colantonio at first base, shortstop Jace Peterson hit a one-out double to centerfield off Vancouver pitcher Blake McFarland. That play gave the Ems’ a 2-1 lead, and it was only a harbringer of what was coming.
“I just got a good pitch and I hit it,” claimed Peterson about the double. “Fortunately, it was a double. I’m excited the way things are going, and hope we can keep this kind of hitting going.”
They certainly kept it going after Peterson’s big hit. Two batters later, Cory Spangenberg doubled in Peterson, making it a 3-1 game. But the Ems’ were just warming up.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Emeralds added four on the board when rightfielder Lee Orr smacked a grand slam home run over the right field fence, expanding their advantage to 7-1.
“It felt great to get that one,” said Orr of the game-altering blast. “It’s always fun to get the big hit, especially when it pushed us out to the big lead.”
If that wasn’t enough, the Ems got yet another home run in the next inning. This time, designated hitter Jose Dore knocked a solo shot to right for the 8-1 advantage. Eugene got their final run three batters later after Peterson singled in infielder Zach Komentani, providing them more than enough to insure the historic feat.
What might be scary to the Ems upcoming opponents is they still don’t feel like they’ve played their best game of the season yet. This after outscoring Vancouver 16-6 in the last two games (they won 7-3 on Monday night). So how will the hottest team in minor leagues achieve playing what they consider perfect baseball?
“There’s definitely room for improvement,” said Peterson. “We’ll get it there by showing up and working hard every night.”
Perhaps this aforementioned attitude is why this squad is off to its best start in years. Then again, maybe the Ems’ secret to success comes from the fact that virtually everyone on this team is in their first year at this level of baseball, including their manager.
“These guys are young and they’re hungry,” Murphy stated with a slight laugh. “Maybe that’s an advantage. I don’t know, I’m new at this (having coach primarily college ball before this year). But seriously, it could be an advantage because they don’t know what pro ball is all about yet, and they’re playing relaxed as a result.”
That being said, the NWL West leaders will take this thrill of victory as long as it lasts.
“It’s a great deal,” Orr explained. “Winning like this makes everything a lot of fun. A month ago, none of us knew what the Northwest League was. Now, we’re permanently in the record books. It makes it a lot easier to show up, and we’re all just having a good time right now.”
The Emeralds are hoping to keep the good times rolling and expand their streak to 15, when they wrap up their short series against Vancouver tonight at PK Park.