If this ends up being the Northwest League championship series in September, it’s going to be good.
The two first-half winners met for the first time this season on Wednesday at Gesa Stadium, with the Hillsboro Hops edging the host Tri-City Dust Devils 5-4 in front of 1,664 fans.
The game featured good pitching, sound defense and strong fundamental play.
The Hops — the first half Southern Division champs — had a 4-1 lead in the fifth, scoring three times in that frame as Fernery Ozuna had a sacrifice fly, and Alexis Olmeda had a 2-run single.
But the Dust Devils, who clinched the Northern Division first-half title on Sunday night, pecked away at the lead.
Carlos Belen scored Rod Boykin from third on a sacrifice fly in the fifth. Then Belen himself scored in the eighth when he scurried home from third on a full-swing bunt fielder’s choice play by Kodie Tidwell. That cut the lead to 4-3.
The Hops added a run in the ninth when Zach Nehrir singled to right to score Galli Cribbs Jr., extending the Hops lead to 5-3.
But Tri-City came right back as Ty France singled to score Rod Boykin in the bottom of the ninth. But reliever then got Belen to strike out to end the game.
Pitching talent galore
These two teams are ranked 1 and 2 in the league in pitching. Hillsboro is first with a team earned run average of 2.98. The Hops have six shutouts. Three of the top four pitching leaders in the league come from Hillsboro: Carlos Hernandez (3-1, 1.26 ERA) is first; Jared Miller (7-1, 1.65) is second; and Cody Reed (4-2, 2.85) is fourth. ... The Dust Devils are second with an ERA of 3.84. Walker Lockett is ranked fifth in the NWL in ERA at 2.91. He has a 2-0 record.
Around the league
Salem-Keizer beat Everett 5-4 in 10 innings, as John Riley had three hits for the Volcanoes, including a home run. Caleb Smith picked up the win, striking out four over the final 2 innings. Southridge High grad Shawn O’Malley, normally at Triple-A Tacoma but on a rehab assignment at Everett, was 0-for-4. ... Eugene beat Spokane 4-3, as Ricardo Marcano was 3-for-3 with two RBIs, and reliever Greyfer Eregua struck out five over the final three innings to get the win.
Hillsboro has one Northwest product on its roster in first baseman Trevor Mitsui, who prepped at Shorecrest High School, played at the University of Washington before being drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 30th round of the 2014 draft. ... Each team has a hitter among the league’s top 10. Tri-City’s Peter Van Gansen is tied fourth in hitting with a .317 batting average. Hops leadoff hitter Zach Nehrir is seventh at .308. ... Pitching probables for tonight: Hops’ Tyler Bolton (0-2, 4.30 ERA) vs. Dust Devils’ Jose Castillo (2-0, 3.86 ERA). ... For Friday: Hops’ Jared Miller (7-1, 1.65 ERA) vs. Dust Devils’ Angel Mejia (1-2, 7.39 ERA).