Dust Devils turn back Emeralds 5-4 in NWL baseball

August 24, 2012 

Tom Murphy may have hit the longest ball of the night for the Tri-City Dust Devils when his sixth-inning home run cleared the left-field wall before landing a good 380 feet away.

But the one that put the Dust Devils over the top in a 5-4 win over the Eugene Emeralds on Friday at Gesa Stadium traveled a mere 20 feet.

With the go-ahead run 90 feet away in a tied ballgame, Yafistel Roja laid down a suicide squeeze that went just far enough to cause a moment of hesitation between Emeralds pitcher Tony Wieber and catcher Dane Phillips, allowing Richard Pirkle to scamper in from third to put Tri-City up 4-3.

Eugene took the lead twice, and twice Tri-City tied the score before pulling ahead, a good sign for a team that was eliminated from playoff contention after a 2-1 loss Thursday.

“We got down twice, but we always had an answer,” Tri-City manager Fred Ocasio said.

Felix Cabrera jumped on a 1-0 pitch from Dust Devils starter Shane Broyles in the second inning, sending it off the scoreboard in left center field for a two-run home run and a 2-0 Ems lead.

Tri-City took advantage of a shaky performance by Eugene starter Tayron Guerrero, a 19-year-old Colombian, to even the score. Richard Pirkle singled to lead off the bottom of the third, took second on a wild pitch and advanced to third on a ground ball by Patrick Hutcheson. Guerrero then uncorked another wild pitch, allowing Pirkle to score.

Guerrero threw two more wild pitches in the bottom of the fourth, and Zach Osborne came home on the last to even the score at 2.

Broyles, who allowed four runs — three earned — on seven hits over six innings, left the game trailing 4-2 but got a lift in the bottom of the sixth. Osborne hit a one-out double, and Murphy followed that by hammering a first-pitch fastball from Matthew Shepherd over the wall in left, tying the score at 4.

Michael Wolford (1-2) relieved Broyles and picked up the win when the Dust Devils went ahead in the seventh.

Pirkle hit a one-out single off Mark Picca, and Patrick Hutcheson moved Pirkle to third with a double to the wall in right center. Eugene manager Pat Murphy replaced Picca with Wieber. That brought up Roja, a switch hitter who had the option of facing Wieber left-handed or right-handed.

“I thought if he faces him lefty, he’s got better bat control. But if he faces him right-handed, he might throw the ball away,” Ocasio said. “I told him to lay (the bunt) down no matter what.”

Wolford got the win with a scoreless inning of relief. Angel Reyes followed with another clean inning, and Seth Willoughby closed things down with a hitless ninth, earning his eighth save of the year.

Picca (4-2) took the loss, giving up a run on two hits in two-thirds of an inning.

Notes: Attendance was announced at 2,414. ... It was Gesa Grand Slam Giveaway night, where nine lucky fans had a chance to win $10,000 if a Dust Devils player hit a grand slam during their assigned inning. The Dust Devils never loaded the bases, but Murphy left no doubt about his fifth home run of the year.... OF Derek Jones went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. The former Washington State star has struck out in five consecutive at bats dating back to Thursday’s night’s 2-1 loss to Eugene... Two Tri-City players — 3B Matt Argyropoulos (24) and RHP Ryan Arrowood (22) both celebrated birthdays Friday.

Dust Devils alumni update: RHP Christian Bergman (2011) improved to 15-5, getting the win in the Modesto Nuts’ 2-0 California League home win over the Bakersfield Blaze. The former NWL all-star struck out eight, allowed just two hits and walked none in eight innings. ... 3B Sam Mende (2011) hit his 12th home run of the year and stole his 22nd base for the Asheville Tourists despite a 3-2 South Atlantic League road loss to the Greenville (N.C.) Drive.

w Jack Millikin; 582-1406; jmillikin@tricityherald.com

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