Hillsboro Hops

Blazers, Thorns, Timbers, Winterhawks, and Hops combine disaster relief efforts

Blazers, Thorns, Timbers, Winterhawks, and Hops combine disaster relief efforts

The following is a joint press release from the Trail Blazers, Timbers, Thorns FC, Winterhawks and Hops

PORTLAND, Ore. (September 5, 2017) – With disaster response and relief efforts happening in their own communities and across the country, the Portland Trail Blazers (NBA), Portland Timbers (MLS), Portland Thorns FC (NWSL), Portland Winterhawks (Western Hockey League) and Hillsboro Hops (Northwest League) will band together to raise much-needed funds and blood donations to channel through the American Red Cross.  This is the first joint-philanthropic initiative among the five local professional franchises focusing on a specific cause – to bring aid to victims of Oregon’s wildfires; Hurricane Harvey in Texas; and the potential impact of Hurricane Irma in Florida.

“The destruction we’ve seen from the Oregon wildfires and Hurricane Harvey is heartbreaking,” said Chris McGowan, President & CEO of the Trail Blazers and Rose Quarter.  “The journey to recovery will be a long one for all impacted areas. The professional sports community here in Portland is rallying our respective fan bases, employees and partners to contribute resources to assist in the effort where it’s needed most.”  

“Our hearts go out to the families and individuals affected by the devastating fires in Oregon and the communities in Southeast Texas as they begin the process to rebuild and heal,” said Mike Golub, President of Business for the Timbers and Thorns FC. “By working together with our local partners, we are able to maximize our collective impact in support of the communities affected by the devastation caused by these disasters."   

The first steps taken will be to hold individual blood drives starting tomorrow, with each team hosting its own specially-designated day at the headquarters for the Portland American Red Cross, located at 3131 North Vancouver Avenue.  The need for blood is constant and the American Red Cross is the largest supplier of blood and blood products to hospitals in the nation. 

Fundraising efforts by each team will take place in the coming weeks and months at select home games and events to be announced soon.  The Timbers, Thorns FC and Hops seasons are currently underway, with the Winterhawks and Trail Blazers beginning their 2017-18 seasons soon.  Additional information will be posted on each team’s website and through their social media channels.

“We’re pleased to be involved with the team effort to raise funds and support the relief efforts locally and nationally,” said K.L. Wombacher, President and General Manager of the Hillsboro Hops.  “Having two players on our roster that we care deeply about being from the Houston area, Hurricane Harvey hits home for us. Our hearts go out to all those who have lost so much over the last week. We hope to do everything we can to help them get their lives back.”

"Between the forest fires threatening the Northwest and the hurricanes causing catastrophic damage on the Gulf Coast, the resources of the American Red Cross are being stretched to the limits," said Doug Piper, President of the Portland Winterhawks.  "We are proud to stand with the Portland sports community and bring aid to those who so desperately need it.”

Red Cross blood donations can be conveniently scheduled online at www.redcrossblood.org for any of their blood drive locations throughout the region; or through the mobile app by texting BLOODAPP to 90999.  Here is the schedule of upcoming blood drives hosted by each Portland-area pro sports team (**Note:  Donors should use visitor parking for their vehicles, or dial (503) 528-5800 for parking guidance if visitor spaces are full):

  • Wednesday, September 6 – Hillsboro Hops; 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Thursday, September 7 – Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns FC; 80 appointment slots from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Friday, September 8 – Portland Winterhawks; 7:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, September 9 – Portland Trail Blazers; 100 appointment slots from 8 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

For financial donations, text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief, which helps people affected by disasters such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires and tornadoes.  Charges will appear on your wireless bill, or be deducted from your prepaid balance. All purchases must be authorized by account holder. Donors must be 18 years of age or have parental permission to participate. Message and Data Rates may apply. Text STOP to 90999 to STOP. Text HELP to 90999 for HELP. Full Terms and Privacy Policy: hmgf.org/t.

Hops took a backward path to their latest division championship

Hops took a backward path to their latest division championship

The Hillsboro Hops needed to win a home game either Saturday or Sunday night against Spokane to wrap up their first-half division championship. But they couldn't get a victory on either night.

Yet, the Hops are celebrating the division championship, anyway, because the Tri-City Dust Devils stepped up and knocked off the Eugene Emeralds for them each night, ensuring the Hillsboro one-game lead in the division would stand up.

Here's what that sounded like Sunday night.

It's called backing in to the playoffs. But seriously, congratulations to the Hops -- who have made a recent habit of appearing in the Northwest League playoffs.

And backing in is still being in. It's a high-quality organization that deserves all the success it gets.

 

Hops rally from 6-0 deficit to win home opener

Hops rally from 6-0 deficit to win home opener

HILLSBORO -- It was the home opener for the Hops Tuesday night and there was a special added attraction. Right-handed pitcher Matt Koch, who has pitched in the major leagues, was the starting pitcher for Hillsboro -- the first big-leaguer to ever appear for the team.

But in the end, all Koch did was put the home team in a 6-0 hole. Which it climbed out of, thanks to a sensational bullpen performance and a walkoff single in the 12th inning by Domingo Leyba that climaxed a 7-6 victory.

The Hops loaded the bases in the ninth after a two-out triple by Eudy Ramos on a bloop that turned into a triple after a failed attempt at a shoestring catch. But after two walks, a groundout ended the inning. And in the 10th they had runners at first and third with one out but couldn't score.

Koch, a former big-leaguer with the parent Arizona Diamondbacks, was making a rehab start for the Hops and didn't’t exactly get off to a smooth start.

The right-hander allowed a long, wind-aided home run to the first batter of the game, Malique Ziegler, and then singles to the next three hitters, upping the lead to 2-0 with still nobody out in the first.

But a pickoff at second, a strikeout and a groundout got Koch out of the inning.

He retired the side in order in the second but was touched for two more runs in the third and the same number in the fourth.

Koch finished up his start after five innings, allowing nine hits and five earned runs.

But the Hops didn't quit.

Designated hitter Kyle Smith got the home team on the board with a two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth, pulling Hillsboro within 6-2.

The Hops scored in the seventh on a two-out, two-run bloop double to right field by Yan Sanchez.  The tying runs were in scoring position after that, and Bryan Araiza got one of the home on a checked-swing infield single and the tying run scored moments later on a wild pitch.

By that time the 4,537 fans were in a frenzy after watching their team rally from the 6-0 deficit heading to the eighth. But they had to hang around a while as the night turned chilly to see the end.

 

Hillsboro Hops lock down new coaching staff for 2017

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Hillsboro Hops

Hillsboro Hops lock down new coaching staff for 2017

BY 

For the last two years of Single-A Short Season, the Hillsboro Hops have been under the capable hands of Manager Shelley Duncan. An experienced MLB outfielder, designated hitter, and first baseman, Duncan was new to his management career when the Arizona Diamondbacks organization hired him for the farm team. In his debut season in 2015, Duncan led the Hops to a Northwest League championship. Duncan has been popular in Hillsboro, with his aggressive and youthful attitude sparking late-in-the-game rallies and his successful batting career serving as inspiration to young players.

But, as any minor league fan can attest, baseball is a game of perpetual professional motion. Duncan has earned a manager position with a higher profile team within the Diamondbacks system, the Visalia Rawhide in California’s Advanced-A league. Much in the way Single-A baseball is a farm system that develops player talent for the big show, it is also a farm for coaching staff.

The next man to lead the Hillsboro Hops when they kick off the 2017 season will be Shawn Roof, a former infielder who started his career in the Detroit Tigers system after being drafted in the 33rd round in 2007. Roof played as high as Triple-A for the Toledo Mudhens in his 2010 season, but decided to pursue a coaching position beginning in 2013. After two seasons with the Orioles organization and one season as an assistant coach at Indiana University, he joined the D-backs system and coached in the Midwest League. Just as Duncan before him, this switch to Hillsboro will be Roof’s debut as a Manager.

Roof, though young and fresh-faced, will have a fountain of experience from which to draw. He will likely have an easy time connecting to his players and keeping energy up. And his staff is grounded by decades of experience, with veteran pitching coach Mike Parrot returning for his second season with the Hops and new batting coach Franklin Stubbs stepping in. Stubbs is a World Series ringholder with over 20 years in the MLB, and joins the Hops after his first season as a coach in Missoula, Montana for the Pioneer League.

The Hops had an up-and-down season in 2016, sometimes allowing sedate performances at the mound and at bat until the game was on the line. It’s no stretch to assume the Diamondbacks executives and Hillsboro’s General Manager K.L. Wombacher purposefully entrust the team to younger men just starting their careers in management. Roof’s prime directive ought to be for the 2017 Hops to fire on all cylinders right from the start and keep a culture of fun and competitive stakes. A NWL season is a meaty experience all at once, with games virtually every day and unglamorous travel and accomodations. Hops fans have more than five months to wait for Roof’s performance.

How would this have looked in the Rose Quarter?

How would this have looked in the Rose Quarter?

SACRAMENTO -- Part of the fun of traveling around the country trailing an NBA team is to survey sports venues in other towns. Tuesday the Trail Blazers will play their first game against the Kings in the new Golden 1 Center and I can't wait to see it. But there's a ballpark here that's pretty cool, too.

They used no public-sector contributions to build Raley Field in 2000 and it's been wildly successful as a Triple-A, Pacific Coast League venue for the Sacramento River Cats.

I mention this because baseball fans in Portland could have been enjoying a gorgeous, destination ballpark in the Rose Quarter if Portland's City Council had gone ahead with the proposed demolition of the money pit known as Memorial Coliseum. The idea was to level the old barn to make way for a Triple-A ballpark that would have been a showplace and a central piece in keeping the Rose Quarter lively during the summer months, when it's normally deserted.

Portland being Portland, it never happened. Meanwhile the city of Hillsboro jumped in to build a smaller, but charming, Class A ballpark to house the Hillsboro Hops and the venue -- and franchise -- have been a huge hit from Day One.

When it comes to sports, our town has always been many days late and several dollars short.

 

Hops take 1-0 lead in NWL South playoffs with 10-inning win

Hops take 1-0 lead in NWL South playoffs with 10-inning win

HILLSBORO --  The Eugene Emeralds may have dominated the Northwest League this summer, but if they want to win the league championship, they still have the two-time defending champion Hillsboro Hops to deal with in the playoffs.

The Hops scrapped from behind for a 4-3, 10-inning win over the Ems to take a 1-0 lead in the NWL's South Division best-of-three series. The series shifts to Eugene for the final two games (if necessary) of the series.

Catcher Jose Queliz was the hero in the 10th, lashing a run-scoring single with two out to plate the winning run.

The Hops got on the scoreboard first, when Luis Veras clubbed a solo homer deep over the left-field fence with two out in the bottom of the second inning. But the Ems tied it in the tokp of the third on Robert Garcia's solo shot to almost the same spot.

The Emeralds took a 2-1 lead in the fourth on Zack Short's two-out double but Hillsboro tied it in the bottom of the same inning on Adam Walton's run-scoring, two-out single.

Eugene took a 3-2 lead in the fifth when Yeller Peguero singled to drive home Kevonte Mitchell.

But the Hops got the game tied in the eighth when Luke Lowery scored on a passed ball. On the same play, Matt McPhearson was out at the plate on a close play, trying to score from second on the passed ball.

The teams went scoreless in the ninth, but in the Hillsboro 10th Mark Karaviotis lashed a ground-ball double down the left-field line with one out. Josh Anderson, the Hops' most reliable hitter all season, was called out on strikes on a 95-mile-per-hour fastball from Ems reliever Michael Rucker for the second out of the inning. Eugene then intentionally walked Lowery to bring up Queliz, whose sharp grounder inside the bag at third sent most of the 2,165 fans (there were some Eugene fans present, too) home happy.

It was the only at-bat of the game for Queliz. The series continues Thursday and Friday in Eugene's P.K. Park.
 

Dansby Swanson's hop to the big leagues was a short one

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USATI

Dansby Swanson's hop to the big leagues was a short one

Dansby Swanson was the No. 1 player taken in baseball's June free-agent draft in 2015, by the Arizona Diamondbacks and when he arrived at midseason with the Hillsboro Hops, all eyes were on him.

Swanson didn't disappoint. After a slow start, he hit .289 with a .394 on-base percentage and helped lead the Hops to a Northwest League championship. The D-Backs traded Swanson, part of a deal that brought them pitcher Shelby Miller, during the off-season to the Atlanta Braves. He became a symbol of hope for the fans of the hapless Braves -- a player the franchise could build its future around.

The Braves traded shortstop Erick Aybar to Detroit Tuesday, opening the door for Swanson -- who was hitting .261 in Double-A -- to make the jump to the big leagues, where the Braves are saying he will be in the starting lineup tonight.

I hope he can handle it. Players -- even college players like Swanson -- can react in different ways to being rushed to the major leagues. Last season the New York Mets got former Oregon State outfielder Michael Conforto into their lineup in the latter stages of the season and he was a big help in their pennant push and performed well in the post season. But this year, for whatever reason, he has struggled mightily, hitting just .218, and was recently optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas for the second time this season.

Swanson is a charismatic player who exudes confidence and ability. We saw this last season in short-season Class A baseball. The fans loved him and so did his teammates. His ability to handle the spotlight mentally is probably beyond question. But his ability to handle big-league pitching? That's another matter. But this is just a six-week trial period for him to get accustomed to the big leagues and the real pressure will come next season as the Braves move into their new ballpark and more will be asked of Swanson.

Can he be the savior of what's become a downtrodden franchise? Maybe, but that's a lot to ask.

Especially when he's been rushed into this role so quickly without the lessons most players learn from a minor-league apprenticeship.

 

Hillsboro Hops: The Northwest League playoffs explained

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Hillsboro Hops: The Northwest League playoffs explained

by  

The first half of the short season is on the books for the Pacific Northwest’s little Class-A baseball league and while there are miles to go before the playoffs actually arrive, the organization of the league’s standings and rules could require a cheat-sheet for the uninitiated. Imagine trying to organize a playoff bracket for a league that only includes eight teams, split into two divisions of four. With only a handful of contenders who are all so evenly matched at their level, there are ties to be broken, eliminations to be determined, and only a week or so to schedule those matchups against each other.

The Northwest League actually divides the season into two halves for the standings, and this week marked the beginning of the second half. Currently, the Hillsboro Hops are sitting at the top of the South Division with only three games played. But the first half of the season was clinched by the Eugene Emeralds, based on win percentage of .737, well above Hillsboro’s .500 after 38 games. What does that mean for the post-season? It’s sort of a mid-season pennant race, and it means Eugene is guaranteed a slot for the playoffs regardless of the rest of the season. Also, the winners of the first half get a choice of venue for their Division Final series (they may host Game 1 or both Game 2 and 3).

So Eugene has plenty of options near the end of the season. The bullpen can be deployed liberally in the final weeks to give starters rest without worrying over their record or possible elimination, and they can alternatively have home turf advantage to start the series or finish it. Hops fans can attest that some teams are more potent at home and others more so on the road, and since the NWL has all eight teams playing most every night, the first half winners can bequeath extra travel time to their opponents if the play schedules work for them. But what happens if two teams tie for the first half of the season?

There are numerous tiebreakers in place, with head-to-head records being foremost and division-only records after that. The range of tiebreakers narrow down to a simple coin flip if necessary. The North Division’s first half was actually tied between the Spokane Chiefs and the Tri-City Dust Devils with a win percentage of .500, but the tiebreaker puts Spokane in the driver seat, with two wins against the Devils and one loss during their only series in the first half.

Four of the eight teams in the league make it to the playoffs–otherwise there wouldn’t be enough teams for an actual tournament bracket–so the winners of the second half of the season fill out the third and fourth slots. However, if Eugene were to win the second half of the season in the South Division after already winning the first half, the next best win percentage would decide which team rounds out the post-season.

Once the Division Finals are decided, the North hosts Game 1 and the South hosts Games 2 and 3 of the Championship series, scheduled for September 11-13 this year.

Hillsboro Hops fight for time on the mound

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Hillsboro Hops fight for time on the mound

Written by Kyle Martinak 

The ups and downs continued through the holiday weekend for the Hillsboro Hops, and the further into the season we venture, the crowd is starting to wonder if the wrinkles will iron out.

The series against the Boise Hawks through the weekend illustrates the continued defensive sloppiness of the Hops infield, with nine errors resulting in eight unearned runs during a mere three games. The problem seemed to be sorted out during the most recent series against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, but when it reared up during week 3 it was a scourge upon the Hillsboro bullpen.

Pitching might be the bigger problem, however. The Hops currently have the second-highest team ERA in the league, trailing Boise by a quarter of a percentage point. There could be dozens of factors for why, but one telling pattern is the number of innings pitched; while Hops starters hang around 20 for the season right now, the go-to relief pitchers are topping out around 10 innings, and the rest of the arsenal putting in anywhere from five to none. Compare that to the Eugene Emeralds, who lead the league in wins and game saves … 11 of their 15 pitchers have over 10 innings, with starters averaging 17 and relievers ranging from eight to 12.

That’s not to say the Hops aren’t mixing it up with 13 different pitchers on the mound in the last 6 games. The problem might be that few are being given enough time to find their rhythm. Right-hander Palmer Betts got lit up like a pinball machine on Friday night and gave up six hits in his two innings, but his average has been steadily climbing back despite only being given three more innings since. Meanwhile, Tucker Ward has been generally reliable so far this season, but was given a vote of no-confidence by Manager Shelley Duncan, who opted to intentionally walk Boise’s Anthony Brito (batting .190 at the time) to bring up bottom-of-the-order Wesley Jones.

Jones ended up batting in the lead run, but the bigger question might have been why Ward was pitching at all. He followed Jose Martinez, who pitched two hitless, scoreless innings. Granted, Martinez hit one batter and walked two others, but the pattern of uneasy changes on the mound paints a picture.

The pitching situation hasn’t improved into the series against the Tri-City Dust Devils, with starter Jefferson Mejia giving up five walks and two hits in his five-inning game on Tuesday. He was relieved by Betts, who in turn was replaced by Jake Winston and finally Tommy Eveld. Then on Wednesday night, Taylor Wright was yanked off the mound midway through the top of the fifth after a jaw-dropping 10 hits and eight earned runs. That game resulted in an embarrassing 9-0 shutout win for Tri-City, and it was over before Tucker Ward could step in for Wright.

While the Hops came right back for a 9-1 win on Wednesday, the game still featured four Hillsboro pitchers, with starter Colin Poche only clocking in three innings. Every game should not feature four pitchers, not even in single-A ball. If the Hops management really wants these young players to develop and control the rhythm of the game the way a professional pitcher should, they have to resist the urge to tinker with that lineup.

On the plus side, batting has improved quite a bit over the last two weeks, with catcher Alexis Olmeda growing his reputation for reliable ground balls, Luke Lowery continuing his RBI build-up, and the big bat going to Justin Chigbogu. The first baseman belted his third home run of the season on Wednesday, and has tied Lowery for the team high of eight RBIs. The real stand-out to me is shortstop Sergio Alcantara, who in nine games boasts an on-base percentage of .457 and continues to hustle.

Here’s hoping the stinking tinkering subsides for them.

Hillsboro Hops tighten screws in week two

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Hillsboro Hops tighten screws in week two

Written by Kyle Martinak 

The bottom line of the last week is that the Hillsboro Hops remain stymied by the Vancouver Canadians, but have found their stride against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.

With the opening week’s growing pains in the bullpen, manager Shelley Duncan has likely accelerated the “getting to know ya” period and landed on the pitchers to trust with the heavy lifting, and chief among them is Tyler Mark. While the starters are sometimes flustered by the middle of the game, there’s no denying that the bullpen is hot; the Hops have 120 strikeouts in 14 games, coming second in the league only to the Spokane Indians’ 138. Mark threw 10 strikeouts for Hillsboro in a seven-inning appearance against Salem-Keizer on Tuesday, walking no one.

Meanwhile, the relievers are being deployed with sniper precision. Southpaw Kirby Bellow was awarded the win Thursday night when he stepped in to deliver a strikeout, retiring the top of the sixth inning and holding the Volcanoes to a 2-2 tied game. Tucker Ward and rookie Jake Winston have rounded out the arsenal, with only five earned runs between the two of them in a combined 13 innings.

Unfortunately, the lack of wood at the plate is the major malfunction. The Hops are just now averaging seven hits per game after the big night Thursday, and that victory over Salem-Keizer saw no hits for Hillsboro for four innings. That is not a professional standard. The lifeless pop-ups are numerous, and while batting coach Jose Amado is surely preaching patience (as evidenced by the team’s league low of 92 strikeouts at the plate), the key right now is some ground balls. The Hops need to put runners on by any means necessary. Base running is sharp through the entire order, as the Hops lead the league with 27 bases stolen. This was the key to the solitary 12-2 victory in Canada, as well as the strong series against the Volcanoes. While the double-threat of Luke Lowery and Justin Chigbogu is impressive, it can’t win games unless the team’s RBI potential is unlocked.

If these two series can illustrate one thing, it’s that the Hillsboro Hops are winning and losing all their games in the fifth and sixth innings. Against the Volcanoes, they can’t quite cut the Dijon until they are down by several runs or simply scoreless in the fifth, at which point they rally and take over the pace of the game entirely. Conversely, against the Canadians, they play sharp and disciplined throughout the first half until they are demoralized by a bad error or a rogue line drive. Then they go to sleep until it is too late. There are two approaches to this issue: A) the team needs to focus on maintaining that first-inning game face through the whole game, or B) they need to develop that underdog, last-chance moxie earlier, particularly if they have no hits after three innings.

The Hops have finally swept a series, but the uphill battle continues on the road against the Boise Hawks during the weekend, followed by a week at home for a four-game series with the Tri-City Dust Devils.