Ronnie Richardson did it all Monday night at PK Park. The Eugene Emeralds’ (13-11, 7-4 at home) leadoff hitter and center fielder lead the team past the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (10-15, 5-6 away), with help from a stellar performance by starting pitcher Justin Hancock (W, 2-1).
Richardson went 2-4 with a home run, three RBI, and a stolen base, ending the night third in the Northwest League with a .328 batting average.
Following a 17-2 blowout loss to the Volcanoes Sunday afternoon, the Emeralds rebounded quickly en route to victory, ensuring their second consecutive series win and finishing off their home stand with a 4-2 record.
The win was the Emeralds’ fifth out of six games against the Volcanoes this season.
The Ems took a 1-0 lead in the second inning after Dane Phillips doubled and reached third base on a Corey Adamson ground out. Phillips tagged up on Chris Burke’s fly ball to center field, and beat out an accurate throw home by Volcanoes center fielder Kentrell Hill.
A pair of two-out singles by Goose Kallunki and Alberth Martinez set the stage for Richardson, who belted a no-doubter into the visitors’ bullpen for a three-run home-run. Richardson’s blast, the first of his professional career, vaulted the Ems to a 4-0 lead.
“I was the last of the little guys without a home run, I kind of felt left out,” Richardson joked.
Volcanoes starting pitcher Chris Johnson (L, 1-1) making his first professional start, was pulled after the second inning, having allowed four earned runs on five hits and a walk. Johnson, a 17th round pick from the University of Portland, had made five relief appearances for Salem-Keizer.
Though the Emeralds did not score for the remainder of the game, Manager Pat Murphy praised his team’s overall approach at the plate.
“It was important that we had relentless innings,” said Murphy. “We stayed after it. Having a snake-bit night like tonight, hitting, every time you’re in position, they catch a line-drive.”
The Ronnie Richardson show continued in the top half of the third inning, when he ranged deep into center field to make an over-the-shoulder catch on an Andrew Cain fly ball, prompting Murphy to lightheartedly compare Richardson to San Francisco Giants legend Willie Mays.
The diminutive Richardson, listed officially at 5’6”, was drafted in the 16th round of June’s First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Central Florida. Richardson, who went 0-4 in Sunday’s loss, took a different approach Monday night.
“I just tried to slow down. Last night I felt like I was rushing a little bit. I just tried to stay back on the ball and get a good piece of it.”
Given an early cushion, Justin Hancock cruised through the first five innings. Despite being forced into the stretch each inning, Hancock never allowed more than one base runner per frame and allowed very little hard contact.
Hancock faced his first major adversity of the night in the sixth inning, after he misfielded Brennan Metzger’s bunt for an infield single. Metzger proceeded to steal second base, and was singled home by Mike Mergenthaler for the Volcanoes’ first run.
Following a Dashenko Ricardo fly out, Joe Rapp’s hard grounder skipped under Emeralds second baseman River Stevens’s glove for an error, putting runners at the corners for Stephen Yarrow.
Yarrow hit a line drive at Emeralds right fielder Alberth Martinez, who caught the ball but did not make a throw home as Mergenthaler tagged and scored, to bring the score to 4-2. After the game, Murphy noted that Martinez appeared to have thought his catch signified the third out of the inning, whereas in reality, it was only the second out.
After Ryan Jones followed with a single, Tony Wieber entered the game in relief of Hancock, who finished with two runs (one earned) on six hits and two walks over five and two-thirds innings.
“Hancock gave us a great start,” said Murphy. “Every start he’s given us a chance. He’s never imploded.”
The Emeralds’ bullpen held onto Hancock’s lead with ease, as Wieber and Roman Madrid combined for three and a third innings without a hit allowed. Madrid recorded his fourth save of the season, striking out three over two perfect innings to close the door on the game, as well as the series.
“Wieber gave us great relief. Madrid gave us great relief. Pitching’s the name of the game,” said Murphy.
The Emeralds have Tuesday off as they prepare for a five-game series at Spokane.