Emeralds inch closer to a playoff berth

Eugene, OR: Strong pitching powered the Emeralds to a key win over the Vancouver Canadians Saturday night. The Emeralds won 2-1, and are now one game ahead of the Canadians with two games left in the first half of the season.

Starting pitcher John Barbato threw six strong innings, allowing two hits and one run while striking out 10 and walking none.

The only blemish came in the sixth with Matt Newman leading off with a double. Two batters later, Jonathan Jones hit a long sacrifice fly to center field to score Newman for the Canadians only run of the game.

"He had all his pitches working for him," Zach Kometani said. "It didn't even seem like anybody was hitting the ball hard against him. He did a great job tonight."

"[I] found the zone," Barbato said. "I was pitching everything in and it was working for me. I wasn't really worried about the strikeouts. It was nice. I needed it. To get my confidence up, it felt good."

The Emeralds offense continues to struggle, mustering only six hits. The first promising moment was when Jose Dore almost hit his third homerun of the year but curved just foul down the right field line.

The first run of the game came for the Emeralds in the fifth. Kyle Gaedele led off with a single to center, and Matt Colantonio followed with a walk. Two batters later, Jorge Minyety singled to left, scoring Gaedele from second.

The Emeralds scored the go-ahead run in the eighth. Jace Peterson reached first on an error and stole second. After Lee Orr's fly out, Zach Kometani singled to bring Peterson in.

"It was a slider," Kometani said. "He left it up, up in the middle of the plate so I hit it in the middle of the field for a base hit."

The Emeralds continue to struggle in many aspects of the game. They were caught stealing twice and continue to be unable to come up with big hits when they need too.

"Our ineptness offensively didn't get exposed as badly," manager Pat Murphy said. "Missed two hit-and-runs, guys got thrown out, we didn't a move a guy over, 0-for-4 situationally, struck out twice with a man on third with one out and no outs, played our typical offense in the game. Anemic. But we did some things when we had to."

The Emeralds will face tough pitching tomorrow and will have to pick up the offense to have a chance at winning the first half of the season. If they win tomorrow, they will have an automatic bid to the postseason.

Murphy hopes to win tomorrow to be assured of the spot in the postseason.

"It's an opportunity to be in a playoff environment," he said. "It adds a little bit more. We talked about winning ugly, there's a lot of beauty to one side of it, that pitching was really special, but as a team we're not on all cylinders."

Suspended center fielder Donavan Tate will be eligible to play tomorrow, although Murphy is unsure whether he will be in the line-up.

"We'll have Donavan Tate back, but he hasn't swung a bat in a live game in 25 games," Murphy said.

Hopefully Tate will be able to spark the Emeralds offense to a win tomorrow night as they try to cement their bid for a playoff spot.

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