Emeralds win on Opening Day

The crack of wood bats and sunshine could mean only one thing; Minor League Baseball is back in Eugene. The Eugene Emeralds hosted the Boise Hawks in the Northwest League season opener. The first game of the season did not disappoint. The Emeralds pulled out a 5-4 thriller.

Through the first four innings of the game it would seem the Hawks had the game already in the bag. Emeralds starting pitcher John Barbato only lasted two and two-third innings while giving up four runs on one hit and five walks while Hawks starting pitcher Ben Wells had only thrown 57 pitches and 12 first pitch strikes through the first 17 batters. As Crash Davis would say, Wells was being more democratic.

After Barbato left the game, the Emeralds bullpen held the Hawks to two hits and zero runs for the rest of the game.

"Really pleased with our pitching. Johnny struggled a little bit and (Greg) Gonzalez scuffled, but after the third we were pretty solid on the mound," manager Pat Murphy said.

After climbing back from 4-1 deficit the Emeralds would ride their stellar bullpen performance back into the game. With the score tied 4-4 in the bottom of the eighth, pinch hitter Jeremy Rodriguez sent a line drive base hit up the middle with two outs.

"I was looking for one pitch and only pitch only and he gave it to me. I saw it and my eyes lit up and I hit it pretty well," Rodriguez said. "Right when I hit it I couldn't stop smiling. It was a feeling that is pretty indescribable and I probably won't stop smiling until my first at-bat tomorrow".

Reliever Hector Mayora was brought in and thought he had an inning ending ground ball, but third baseman Willson Contreras booted the groundball to extend the inning. Mayora would never be the same as he issued back to back walks and the walk to Cory Spangenberg with the bases loaded would end up giving the Emeralds the lead.

The Emeralds ended up using six pitchers in the game opposed to the Hawks three. The Emeralds bullpen over the final five frames posted a 46-to-22 strike-to-ball ratio, while the Hawks threw a 48-to-41 ratio over their final four frames. Pitching ended up being the difference in the ballgame and the Emeralds pounded the zone with more strikes when it counted.

Clint Moore led the way for the Emeralds offensively going 2-for-4 with two doubles. Jeremy Gigliotti picked up his first win and Kevin Quackenbush picked up his first save. Jose Rosario of the Hawks picked up his first loss of the season.

"I am happy that we won our first game and I'm happy I could be a part of it," Rodriguez said.

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