On a beautiful sunny-day at PK Park, the Eugene Emeralds (Northwest League West) started their 2012 campaign against the North West League East Yakima Bears.
After a 2011 campaign that saw them establish the best record at 46-30 in the Northwest League yet come up short in the playoffs, the Ems will be looking to claim their first League title since they were named co-champions with Bellingham in 1980.
The Ems got off to a hot start after starting pitcher Chris Fetter retired the first three batters he faced. After Emeralds’ center-fielder Ronnie Richardson grounded out to third, Eric Charles recorded the first Emeralds hit of the season as he beat out a bunt that trickled just past the batters box.
After catcher Rodney Daal struck-out looking, first-baseman Clark Murphy launched a monster three-run shot off of the Budweiser sign in right-center field to give the Emeralds an early 3-0 lead.
The second-inning was much of the same for Fetter as he once again retired all three batters he faced, recording his first two strikeouts of the 2012 season. The first hit for Yakima came from catcher Ronnie Freeman as he singled to lead off the third. He would, however, not advance another base as Fetter induced a 1-6-3 double-play and got Yakima second-baseman Kevin Medrano to pop-out as Corey Adamson made a spectacular catch just over the left-field fence in foul territory.
The Ems and Bears would then see little action from the 2nd through 5th innings, as each team only managed two-hits within that span.
Fetter, making a rehab appearance for Eugene, was pulled after the fifth inning with a clean slate as he surrendered just two hits. Fetter finished the night with two strikeouts while also surrendering no walks.
Replacing Fetter was Emeralds reliever Tony Wieber, who had a more difficult time finding the strike zone than Fetter.
Wieber started off the sixth inning by hitting Yakima right-fielder Danny Poma, who scored the first run for the Yakima Bears in 2012 on a sacrifice fly by DH Yogey Perez. After settling in, Wieber was able to get Yakima SS Josh Parr to pop-out to first base and left-fielder Kerry Jenkins to ground-out to third.
The Emeralds were able to get that run back in the bottom-half of the inning as Clark Murphy launched his second home run of the game, this time a solo shot that just managed to clear the 325-foot right-field fence.
After another 1-2-3 inning for the Bears in the top of the 7th, the Ems scratched across another run as Eric Charles plated his first RBI of the season by singling home Stephen Carmon.
Taking a 5-1 lead into the 8th inning, the Emeralds looked to Alexis Lara to replace Tony Wieber on the hill. Lara, who was making a rehab appearance after a year off, did not get off to the start that he had hoped to.
Catcher Ronnie Freeman led-off the inning with a shot that bounced to the left-field fence as he easily coasted into second base. After losing control of a pitch and hitting Danny Poma, Lara was able to record the first out of the inning as he got Yakama second-baseman Kevin Medrano to fly-out to right field.
The Yakima Bears were then able to collect back-to-back hits, with SS Josh Parr collecting two RBIs on his single to narrow the Emeralds lead to two.
After walking Yakama left-fielder Kerry Jenkins to load up the bases once again, Lara was replaced by Mark Picca.
Picca, a minor league free agent signee from the New York Mets, was able to strike Yakima first-baseman Jacob House out.
Unfortunately for the Emeralds (and those fans who wanted to head home earlier than later), third-baseman Chris Burke made a throwing error on what would have been an inning-ending ground-out, ultimately leading to two additional Yakima runs that tied up the game at five.
Picca was then able to retire Yakama third-baseman Mark Ginther to end the inning, an inning that saw the Ems give up four runs with only two of them being earned. The bottom-of-the-eighth inning was rather uneventful as the Emeralds went down in order, setting the stage for the possibility of extra innings.
Sticking with Picca in the ninth inning, the Emeralds were able to get out of it unscathed as the Bears left a runner on first and second after getting them on with just one out. Much like the Bears, the Emeralds half of the ninth had promise, but they could not find a way to plate the winning run.
After left-fielder Corey Adamson walked with one out, Brian Adams sacrificed him over to second base to no avail as Carmon ended the inning by grounding out to second, thus sending the game into extras.
Matthew Shepherd came into pitch the top-half of the tenth inning for the Ems and put the Yakima Bears down 1-2-3, thus allowing for the heroics of Murphy.
After Yakima reliever Victor Acosta hit the first two batters of the inning, he settled in and retired both River Stevens and Rodney Daal, each flying out to center and short respectively.
Already having hit two home runs during the game and accounting for four of the five Emeralds runs, Murphy was once again ready to strike. With about half the fans left from who started the game, Murphy launched a ball over the left-fielders head, plating Ronnie Richardson to end the game and give the Emeralds a 6-5 walk-off win.
Murphy finished the game game 4-of-5 with two home runs, two singles, and five RBIs. Matthew Shepherd picked up the win in relief for the Emeralds while Victor Acosta picked up the loss.
The Emeralds are now 1-0 on the season and will play game two of a five game series against the Yakima Bears tomorrow night at 7:05pm. Expected starters are Will Scott for the Emeralds and Miguel Pena for the Bears.