KEIZER, Ore. – The back-to-back Northwest League defending champion Hillsboro Hops edged past division rival Salem-Keizer on Friday 6-5. The Opening Day win was the first for Hillsboro in their four year history, taking their all-time record against the Volcanoes to 19-18.
After a hitless top of the first, Hillsboro starter Anfernee Benitez gave up a lead off double to the Volcanoes’ Manuel Geraldo. A Benitez wild pitch with Geraldo on third scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the first. Benitez would give up another double and throw out a second wild pitch, with no fault, before the inning was over.
The Hops responded with three of their own in the second thanks to back-to-back hits from Justin Chigbogu and Alexis Olmeda and a three run blast from Jeff Smith.
The score remained 3-1 until Hillsboro’s Luke Lowery hit a shot of his own with Josh Anderson on base in the sixth.
Salem-Keizer’s Gustavo Cabrera added a homer of his own in the seventh after a pitching change for Hillsboro. Two more came in for the Volcanoes in the last of the seventh putting the home team within one, 5-4.
The Hops added an extra insurance run off a Chigbogu double in the eighth which scored Lowery.
The Volcanoes threatened a comeback in the bottom of the ninth scoring one on a Cabrera single, but the defending champs were able to shut things down, ending the 2 hour and 46 minute Opening Day contest.
As noted by Hops’ play-by-play announcer Rich Burk during his post game show, it was a very clean game, with no errors committed by either team, a rare feat at the start of the Northwest League season.
Lowery led the team with two RBI’s, hitting 2-for-4 and scoring two runs of his own. Smith drove in three, hitting 1-for-4.
Anderson and Chigbogu both doubled for the visitors.
Cabrera led the Volcanoes with two RBI’s and a run of his own hitting 2-for-4.
Hops starter Benitez lasted five innings, earning his first win of the 2016 season. The fifth-year player struck out six while allowing just one run on six hits. Despite being banged up early in the first inning, Benitez was able to calm down and find his groove after being handed a lead to work with.
Julio Perez earned his first save for the Hops with one inning of work where he allowed one run on two hits while striking out just one.
The Hops pitching staff combined for 10 K’s while giving a free pass to just one batter. 12 hits scored five runs.
The Volcanoes staff of three allowed six runs on 11 hits while striking out seven and walking three, along with hitting one.
As the numbers show, the Hops outlasted – and outscored- the Volcanoes just enough, garnering one more run on one less hit.
A perfect 1-0 for the first time in history, the Hops will turn to right handed Tyler Mark tonight in attempt to start a winning streak. Salem-Keizer will start Hengerber Medina, a third year righty.
Game time is set for 6:35 p.m. in Keizer.
The Hops return to Hillsboro for their home opener Monday for a 7:05 p.m. game time against the Eugene Emeralds.
As always, make sure to stay up to date on all things Hillsboro Hops, Northwest League, and Grain of the Game by following the blog (at left) and the author on Twitter at @atticusrice.