By Sam Finley, EDN
The second half of the Eugene Emeralds’ season has been rocky, and this past series with the Everett AquaSox was more of the same. The once-seemingly unstoppable offense was shut down cold in a 7-1 loss on Monday night. Wednesday night, the Ems’ bats were deader than Elvis as Everett cruised to a 5-0 victory.
The Emeralds did, however, end the series on a high note by trouncing the Aquasox 8-3 in front of 1,987 fans at PK Park last night. They did it with plenty of hitting late in the game, but the bigger story was the pitching by Will Scott.
The 6’2, 185 pound right hander only allowed one hit and struck out six AquaSox batters in six innings of work. Not bad for a guy who was making only his second start for the Emeralds.
“All night I stayed in the zone,” said Scott about his performance. “My confidence kept building as they game went along, so it got easier and easier. But then, one mistake and they would’ve been back in the ball game. So I just stayed confident and kept pounding the zone.”
“Will pitched very well for his second start,” claimed Ems’ manager Pat Murphy. “He located his fastball and he pitched. He didn’t throw two good pitches and then let the batters off the hook. He completed hitters and he battled. I’m proud of him.”
The Ems’ certainly needed Scott to keep pounding the strike zone, before they could start pounding their bats. They got an initial salvo in the bottom of the fifth, when right fielder Lee Orr hit a home run over the leftfield fence. That gave Eugene a 1-0 lead, and Orr said it was about trusting his instincts on a hanging slider by Everett pitcher Stephen Landazuri that he’d been avoiding prior to last evening.
“I’ve been letting that type pitch go all year,” Orr explained about the homer. “I haven’t been willing to swing at it. But that time, I put a good swing on it and I made great contact.”
Orr wasn’t done yet, however. With two on in the bottom of the seventh, he singled to leftfield, loading the bases. That set the table for an avalanche of runs. First, there was the line drive single to centerfield by first baseman Zach Komentani, scoring shortstop Casey McElroy and making the score 2-0.
Two batters later, left fielder Justin Miller singled to center, scoring Komentani and center fielder Kyle Gaedele, making it 4-0. After a bizzare stretch of safe hits by Eugene and throwing errors by Everett, Orr was back up again and flied out to left. But by this time, the Ems had scored four more times and had sealed the AquaSox’ fate.
It was a welcome sign for a Eugene team that has struggled for the past month since winning the first half of the NWL West divison. Though the Emeralds are guaranteed a playoff spot, they hadn’t been playing playoff baseball lately. But Murphy thought last night might be the beginning of a turnaround for his club.
“I’m happy for our guys,” he stated. “We had some good at bats, and we stayed on it. It was kind of a playoff atmosphere this evening, and it was kind of cool.”
A potential playoff atmosphere indeed. Thursday’s victory over Everett, who will likely be their first round postseason opponent, evened the Ems’ second half record to 11-11. It also brought the Emeralds within three games of Everett in the NWL West Division Second Half Standings.
Though the Ems’ still haven’t found the consistent strides that propelled them to greatness earlier this year, they still feel upbeat about the next month of baseball. With 16 games left in the regular season, the goal remains the same for this team.
“We’re hit the ball well tonight and we’ve got to keep it going,” said Scott. “We have to keep it going into the playoffs, so we can win the whole thing.”
Of course, the ‘whole thing’ is still over two weeks away for the Ems. In the meantime, the Ems’ start another series tonight at PK Park. They’ll be facing the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in a three game set.
Sam Finley has been the EDN sports editor since June 2011. He welcomes your feedback.