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Hops sputter during long homestand

Hillsboro splits its first eight home games against Northwest League rivals Salem-Keizer, Vancouver


When it came to the offense, the Hillsboro Hops were unusually anemic Tuesday night.

As has often been the case so far this season, the Hops got off to a good start when Taylor Ratliff led off the game with a single, but the Hops could manage just three hits the rest of the way in a 3-0 defeat to the Vancouver Canadians at Ron Tonkin Field. by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Hillsboro Hops manager Mark Grace signals into the dugout during last Wednesday's home opener against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.

Hillsboro rebounded with an X-X win in an early Wednesday afternoon game to move their record to 8-5 this season. Entering a three-game series that started Thursday in Boise, the Hops were the only team above .500 in the Northwest League’s South Division.

“They mixed speeds well. They used their off-speed really effectively, and we swung through way too many pitches tonight, too many strikeouts,” Ratliff said. “(Ryan) Doran threw amazing tonight. That’s what you want out of a starter, and he threw phenomenal. We can’t strike out that much. We gotta put the ball in play more.”

Doran was indeed tough. He gave up a run in the third inning but kept it a 1-0 ballgame until the seventh. The second-year pro out of San Diego State yielded six hits, two walks and all three runs while striking out seven.

“Throwing strikes is key, making sure you get ahead of guys is extremely important, especially against good teams like the Canadians,” Doran said. “I felt like I did that for the most part. I got myself in some trouble ... I at least kept us in the ballgame. That’s what I try to do.”

The Canadians, who are the three-time reigning Northwest League champions, squeezed out their first run in the third when Roemon Fields grounded into a force out at second base that scored Jonathan Davis.

The other two runs came in the seventh, when Michael De La Cruz launched an RBI triple to center field to plate Alexis Moldonado and Ryan Metzler.

That was it for the Canadians’ offense on the night, but it was all they wound up needing to secure a series victory. The Hops put just seven base runners on all game — five of them with two outs — and went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Hillsboro Hops starting pitcher Ben Eckels delivers a pitch during the Hops' home opener against Salem-Keizer last Wednesday.

“The Canadians are a good team,” Doran said. “They’re going to be there at the end, and we hope to be there, too.”

While Tuesday’s loss was a bit on the lackluster side, the Hops have recorded plenty of recent highlights:

• On Monday, Anderson Placido was named as this season’s inaugural Northwest League pitcher of the week. The 6-foot left-hander fanned 12 during his starting outing against Everett on June 15. That strikeout mark is a franchise record. Thanks in part to the Dominican Republic product’s fast start — he struck out 10 of the first 12 AquaSox batters he faced and gave up just three hits in 5.1 innings — the Hops topped Everett, 3-0. Placido also gave up just three hits in his second start, a 2-1 Hops win against Salem-Keizer last Friday. Back on the mound Wednesday, he picked up XXX in the Hops’ victory.

• Ben Eckels pitched a gem in Monday’s 4-0 win against the Canadians for his first decision of the season. One of just a handful of Hops who played in Hillsboro last year, Eckels scattered three hits and a walk while striking out eight in 6.2 innings.

• Grant Heyman smashed his first professional home run to right field during the Hops’ 5-3 loss to the Canadians on Sunday. Heyman, a 20-year-old rookie outfielder out of Southern Nevada, was batting a team-best .3XX heading into Thursday’s game at Boise. That home run was not only his first long ball as a pro, but it also was his first for extra bases. But at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, he is certainly capable of delivering more of those.

• Two Hops celebrated birthdays this week on consecutive days. Justin Gonzalez turned 23 on Tuesday, when he picked up a two-out single in the ninth inning. He followed up the next day by smashing his third home run of the season, a three-run shot off Miguel Castro that put the Hops up 6-0 in the fourth. And Ratliff celebrated his 22nd birthday on Wednesday with a start in center field. The Floridian drew two walks and scored on an RBI single into shallow left field by Heyman for the Hops’ first run of the game.

• Hillsboro picked up its second series win of the season with back-to-back one-run victories against Salem-Keizer last week. Last Thursday, Doran went 5.2 innings, yielding six hits, a walk and two runs while striking out seven in his first decision of 2014. The Hops scored insurance runs in the fifth and sixth innings for a 4-2 lead and held on when the Volcanoes scored in the eighth. Tyler Baker, Todd Glaesmann and Bennie Robinson delivered the team’s RBIs. In a 2-1 victory last Friday, Elvin Soto delivered a walkoff line drive single to right field in the ninth to score Justin Gonzalez from third base. Dustin Loggins picked up the win with a perfect, three-strikeout ninth inning.

Clearly the Hops rebounded in a big way on Wednesday, when they unloaded for six runs in the fourth inning en route to victory. Results of Thursday’s series-opening game at Boise were not available at press deadline.

That series continues with a game at 6:15 p.m. tonight and wraps up with a 9 a.m. contest on Saturday. The Hops return home for a five-game series against Everett that begins Sunday and continues through next Thursday, July 3.