After combining for four runs in their previous two games, the Eugene Emeralds and Tri-City Dust Devils had an offensive explosion Friday night, with the Emeralds coming out on top 10-8.
“I’m proud of the guys, they scored 10 runs,” first-year Emeralds manager Pat Murphy said. “They’re just a good defensive team. They pitch well and swing the bat well. They’re a well-rounded team. It’s a good victory for us.”
The Emeralds opened the scoring in a bizarre way in the bottom of the first inning when second baseman Justin Miller hit a single to right field with shortstop Jace Peterson on second base. Tri-City right fielder Juan Crousset threw home to try and get Peterson, but it sailed 15 feet into the netting behind home plate, allowing Miller to advance to second base. Dust Devils catcher Ryan Casteel threw to third base to try and cut Miller down, but his throw sailed past the base and into left field, allowing Miller to score.
Tri-City put a run on the board in the top of the second inning when third baseman Jayson Langfels hit a first-pitch leadoff home run to left-center field off Emeralds starter Juan Herrera, who would not surrender another baserunner until the fifth inning.
Eugene got that run back in the bottom of the inning when diminutive catcher Jeremy Rodriguez scored from second base on a one-out single to right field from Peterson.
Former Oregon pitcher Erik Stavert got the start for Tri-City — his first with the team this season — going two innings and giving up three runs on four hits with two walks and a strikeout.
“Usually, a kid’s first outing in pro ball goes one way or another,” Murphy said. “I know the kid’s better than what he pitched, but we took advantage, that was good, and we swung the bat good.”
The Emeralds broke the game open in the fourth inning when they sent 10 batters to the plate, scoring six runs against Dust Devils reliever Nelson Gonzalez. After a one-out walk, left fielder Jose Dore scored on a single to left field from center fielder Kyle Gaedele. Miller drove Gaedele in on a line-drive single to left field, before Peterson and Miller were driven in on a two-run triple into the right field corner from third baseman Travis Whitmore.
“He just missed with a fastball in; I thought he was going to come in again,” Whitmore said. “He did and left it out over the plate a little bit, and it topspun itself into the corner.”
After first baseman Zach Kometani was hit by Gonzalez, Tri-City put in pitcher Chris Dennis, who promptly served up a two-run double to designated hitter Matt Colantonio, who was a last-minute replacement for Dan Killian, who was suffering from flu-like symptoms.
With a layoff of more than half an hour between innings, Herrera struggled to regain the control that had allowed him to strike out seven batters without issuing a walk. Herrera walked the leadoff hitter in the fifth inning, Casteel, and then threw a wild pitch to allow him to get to second base. Crousset hit into a fielder’s choice, with Casteel tagged out at third base.
“Herrera was lights-out for four and then the long layoff, he couldn’t get back on track,” Murphy said.
After that, the Dust Devils began a hit parade, running off four straight base hits and plating four runs in the process. Tri-City pinch hitter Matt Argyropoulos capped off the scoring with an infield single to score center fielder Brian Humphries, making the score 9-6 in favor of Eugene.
The Emeralds put another run up in the bottom of the fifth inning when Whitmore hit a bases-loaded single to score Rodriguez from third base.
“Whitmore has also played very, very well as of late,” Murphy said. “It’s been about five, six games in a row, he’s been really good.”
The Dust Devils scored a run in the eighth inning when Crousset hit a two-out triple and was driven in on a single from shortstop Taylor Featherston.
Tri-City made the ninth inning interesting, scoring a run off Eugene closer Chris Wilkes’ wild pitch with two outs, narrowing the lead to 10-8. However, Wilkes coaxed a deep flyout to center field from Casteel with runners on first and second to end the game.
The Emeralds have the best record in the Northwest League by two games over the Dust Devils, and the two teams meet for the final game of their five-game series Saturday night at 7 p.m. at PK Park.