There was no magical comeback Friday night at PK Park.
In the finale of a series that had seen the Emeralds win two games on walk-off hits by Corey Adamson and Ronnie Richardson, the Ems went down on three consecutive strikeouts in the ninth inning, losing to the Spokane Indians 3-1 in front of 4,388. The loss, paired with the Vancouver Canadians’ 3-1 win over the Yakima Bears, eliminated the Emeralds from the Northwest League playoff chase in their final game of the season.
The Ems were unable to capitalize on five defensive errors by the Indians, largely due to four double plays.
“We were a little bit snake-bit today,” said Emeralds manager Pat Murphy. “They got behind and started to feel it a little bit. Last three games, they played loose and relaxed. This game, they felt it with their scoreboard watching of Vancouver, and you can’t get involved like that.”
The Indians struck early, starting with a one-out single from right fielder Preston Beck and a walk from third baseman Joey Gallo. Ryan Rua then singled to right field, scoring Beck and advancing Gallo to second base.
Emeralds’ starting pitcher Juan Marcano’s wild pitch allowed Rua and Gallo to advance to second and third base respectively, which catcher Patrick Cantwell capitalized on by hitting a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Gallo and extending the Indians’ lead to 2-0.
The Ems threatened to respond in the second inning, when designated hitter Rodney Daal and catcher Dane Phillips opened the frame with consecutive singles. The Indians helped the Emeralds’ cause when starting pitcher John Kukuruda fielded Emeralds’ first baseman Goose Kallunki’s sacrifice bunt attempt and rifled a throw to third base in hopes of forcing out Daal, but Gallo dropped the ball, loading the bases.
Emeralds’ third baseman Gabriel Quintana hit a soft line drive at Indians’ first baseman Smerling Lantigua, which Lantigua caught on a bounce and threw home to force out Daal. With one out, center fielder Alberth Martinez hit a soft pop up, which Gallo caught and threw to first base to double up Quintana.
Emeralds’ right fielder Corey Adamson grounded into a double play in the third inning, but left fielder Jeremy Baltz picked his outfield mate up with a solo home run to left center field, bringing the Emeralds’ deficit to 2-1.
The fourth inning meant yet another double play for the Emeralds when Phillips neutralized a leadoff walk from Daal with a groundball to second base.
In the fifth inning, the Emeralds received more help from Gallo, when the Texas Rangers’ 1st Round Pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft fielded a leadoff bunt attempt from Quintana and threw errantly to first base, allowing Quintana to advance to second.
After Martinez moved Quintana to third base on a sacrifice bunt, shortstop Stephen Carmon and Adamson failed to capitalize with a pair of groundouts to end the inning. The Indians added on in the top of the sixth inning. After Beck led off with a single and stole second base, Cantwell singled to center field, scoring Beck.
Left fielder Brandon Garcia followed with a single of his own, ending Marcano’s night, having allowed three earned runs on six hits and a walk, along with seven strikeouts. Right-handed relief pitcher Matthew Shepherd entered and induced Lantigua into grounding out to end the inning.
In the bottom half of the frame, Emeralds’ second baseman Maxx Tissenbaum hit a soft comebacker at Kukuruda, who turned a casual play into an exciting one when he airmailed Lantigua, allowing Tissenbaum to advance all the way to second base. Rodney Daal then hit another comebacker at Kukuruda, who turned around to find Tissenbaum caught between second and third base. The Indians’ right-hander threw to shortstop Gabe Roa, but Tissenbaum slid back to second base safely under the tag attempt. Roa then threw to first base in hopes of nabbing Daal, but his throw was wide as well, allowing Daal to reach safely and Tissenbaum to advance to third base.
Yet again, however, the Emeralds’ squandered the opportunities created by the Indians’ comedy of errors, as Dane Phillips grounded into an inning-ending double play, the Ems’ fourth of the game. There ended Kukuruda’s outing, at six innings pitched, allowing one earned run on four hits and two walks against one strikeout.
After a pair of swinging strikeouts in the bottom of the eighth inning by Adamson and Baltz, Tissenbaum reaches first base on yet another fielding error by the Indians, this time by Lantigua. Daal followed with a groundout to end the inning, leaving the Emeralds with one final frame to summon the late-game magic that had kept them alive up to the final game of their season.
It was not to be. Despite a 47-29 overall record that was tops in the Northwest League, the Emeralds fell short of postseason play, due to the league’s playoff format that awards each division’s winner from the first and second halves.
“Hey, that’s life,” said Murphy. “Life doesn’t always deal you the cards you want to hear, but bottom line is that guys did a great job this year. They’ve got to learn to deal with it, and they’ve got to grow from this experience. This is about that.”
The Eugene Emeralds Press Release
The Emeralds organization is deeply saddened to learn of two fans, Elaine and Charles Stewart, who were struck by a moving vehicle before the start of the final game of the season. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and all affected by the accident. The Emeralds season came to a close Friday night, but our heart is not on the field, but rather with the Stewart family.