Ems’ ‘Walk’ Away With Series Finale…
By Sam Finley, EDN
It wasn’t easy, and it took a little overtime before the outcome was decided. Okay, it was actually extra innings, but maybe the fact that it was College Football Night at PK Park on Saturday had something to do with that description. Anyway, the Eugene Emeralds closed out a successful homestand by sweeping their series with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes 5-4 last night in the 11th inning of play.
After taking only one game in the previous series with Everett, the Ems managed to turn things around against Salem. They won 5-4 on Thursday night and 5-1 on Friday before getting the sweep last night. The recent turn of events has Emeralds’ manager Pat Murphy thinking that maybe his club is getting back to the style of play they had exhibited in early July before having an up-and-down second half.
“We’re a little bit better now than the way we’ve been playing the past month,” explained Murphy.
The Ems might be playing a little better, but as stated earlier, they had their hands full last evening. In the top of the first, they found themselves in an early hole when Volcanoes’ left fielder Leonardo Ochoa knocked a home run over the right field fence.
Then, for some unexplicable reason, Volcanoes’ manager Tom Trebelhorn came out to argue with the umpire, and got ejected. Perhaps in honor of College Football Night, he then promptly kicked his hat four times, and signified the last kick with a field goal sign.
Getting back to the game itself, Eugene managed to strike back in the bottom of the fourth. With two on and one out, first baseman Zach Komentani drove them in and gave the Ems a 2-1 lead.
A batter later, catcher Matt Colantonio singled to right, bringing Komentani to make the score 3-1.
But Salem hung in there, by scoring two runs in the top of the fifth to tie it at 3-3. Then, in the top of the Ninth, the Volcanoes set the stage for extra innings by rallying from another one run deficit to knot the game up at 4-4.
In the 10th, neither team was able to muster any offense, and Salem stranded a runner in the top of the 11th.
That’s when the Ems got busy in the bottom of the 11th. Well, maybe not so much busy as they got what they needed. Centerfielder Lee Orr set things up by leading off with a triple against Volcanoes’ reliever Wilber Burcado. Orr said the hit couldn’t have come at a better time, since he had struck out in three previous at-bats on Saturday.
“I was having a rough night before that,” Orr explained about his three-bagger. ”But I cleared my mind and made contact. Then the rest of the guys behind me did their jobs and we got the win.”
“It says something about the kid,” claimed Murphy about Orr. ”He had struck out three times tonight, but he still came up with the big hit when it counted.”
Still, it took awhile before Orr could score and send 3,449 Emeralds’ fans home happy. The next batter, right fielder Kyle Gaedele, reached first base on a fielder’s choice. Then Burcado intentionally walked shortstop Jace Peterson in a desperate hope of trying to set up a double play.
Instead, it set up left fielder Justin Miller to become the hero of the game without having to move his bat.
“You can’t ask for a better situation than that,” said Miller with a smile. ”Lee led us off with that With the bases loaded and no outs, you just go up there looking for something to hit. However, their reliever threw a couple dirt balls and I didn’t even have to swing.”
Indeed, Burcado tried to get Miller to swing at a couple sinkers after getting behind the count with two balls. Unfortunately for the Volcanoes’ reliever, Miller merely looked at both pitches, and the base on balls allowed Orr to score, and the Ems’ to walk away with the victory and the series sweep.
Now comes a pivotal road series for the Emeralds. Starting tonight, Eugene will take on the AquaSox in Everett for a three game set. Last night’s win brought the Ems within two games of the NWL West second-half division leaders, and a sweep up there might bring some much needed playoff momentum as the regular season draws to a close in early September.
The Emeralds will next play at PK Park on Wednesday when the Spokane Indians come for a five game set.
Sam Finley has been the EDN sports editor since June 2011. He welcomes your feedback.