There is no doubt the Tri-City Dust Devils have vastly improved in the second half of the Northwest League season.
But facing their biggest and most important homestand of the season, the ghosts of the first half reappeared Monday night at Gesa Stadium.
Tri-City committed four errors and several other mistakes, and Hillsboro took advantage of every one of them in an 8-1 victory. It was the first of five-game series against a Hops team that has the league’s best record at 43-26 and already clinched a playoff spot.
“We just have to turn the page and come back ready to go (today),” said Tri-City manager Drew Saylor.
With seven games left in the regular season, Tri-City is deadlocked with Vancouver in the North Division standings. Vancouver won 3-1 in Eugene on Monday night to pull even in the standings and holds the tiebreaker should the two teams finish the season tied.
“We’re excited to be home after a long road trip,” Saylor said. “Just need to continue to be doing what we have during this past four- week stretch.”
Things started to go awry in the third inning for Tri-City when Hillsboro jumped on top 2-0 without recording a hit. The Hops just piled on from there as the Dust Devil mistakes continued. A passed ball, a wild pitch, a throwing error, and a handful of walks aided the Hops offense that didn’t really need any extra help.
Hillsboro pounded out 13 hits off of five Tri-City pitchers and evened the season series with Tri-City at 3-3.
The Hops opened things up in the seventh with four runs, two coming on an RBI double by Kevin Cron to push the lead to 6-1. Hillsboro added two more runs in the inning thanks to a wild pitch and a passed ball as the lead ballooned to 8-1.
Hops reliever Scott Schultz was dominant in six innings of work out of the bullpen. The former Oregon State University standout struck out 10 and allowed just three hits for his fourth win of the season. Three Hillsboro pitchers combined to strike out 14 Tri-City batters.
“That’s the thing about baseball,”Saylor said. “You have to move forward.”
Hillsboro benefitted from some Dust Devil miscues to take the early lead off starter Grahamm Weist, scoring two runs in the third inning without a hit. After Weist hit Steve Nyisztor to lead off the bottom of the third inning, he moved around to third when Jordan Parris had his throw sail into center field trying to throw him out at second trying to steal. Taylor Ratliff then reached on an error and stole second to give Hillsboro runners at second and third with no outs. Back-to-back RBI groundouts from there gave the Hops the early 2-0 lead.
Tri-City cut into the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning on an RBI double by Sean Dwyer over right-fielder Stryker Trahan to score Drew Weeks to cut the margin to 2-1.
Hillsboro got the run back in the fifth inning when Nate Robertson scored on an RBI single up the middle the squirted under second baseman Sam Bumpers’ glove to make the score 3-1.
The lead grew to 4-1 in the sixth thanks to a well-executed double-steal that plated Nyisztor when Nate Irving beat the throw of Parris at second base.