Emeralds' bats lead the way to a near sweep

EUGENE-- The Eugene Emeralds started their 2006 campaign strong behind hot bats and solid pitching performances by Brooks Dunn, Jackson Quezada, and Ernesto Frieri. The Ems totaled double digits in the hit column in their first four games and produced a .346 team batting average while winning the first four of a five game series against the Boise Hawks this week.

Traveling to Boise, Idaho for the season opener, the Ems were led by veteran catcher Luany Sanchez and a strong first outing by pitcher Brooks Dunn on Monday against the Hawks, a Cubs affiliate. Dunn pitched three shutout innings, allowing only one hit, and striking out two. Sanchez went 5-for-5 in the game, with a homerun, two doubles, and four runs scored. The Ems won the game 11-7. Sanchez ended up going 8-for-13 throughout the week, adding a second homerun Friday night during the fifth game.

Jackson Quezada started the second game, pitching four innings and giving up one unearned run on three hits. Quezada, who pitched for the Padres' Dominican League team last year, helped the Ems win 10-4. Ernesto Frieri closed out the second and fourth games, allowing no earned runs with four strikeouts and three hits in 4.2 innings of work.

Craig Cooper, from Notre Dame, shared the team lead in hits for the series with Sanchez, pounding out eight hits in 20 at-bats, including a homerun and two doubles. Third baseman David Freese also hit well by going 7-for-16 with two bombs, one a pinch-hit homerun in the third game. The pinch-hit jack was part of an eight run seventh inning that put the Emeralds up for good after trailing the entire game. The Ems won the game 8-4. Freese was chosen in the 9th round of this year's draft out of the University of South Alabama.

The Ems continued their hitting barrage with 11 hits in the fourth game en route to a 7-3 win. New acquisition Nicholas Kliebert, drafted in the 25th round of 2006 out of Pepperdine, went 1-for-3 with a double and Freese went 3-for-5.

The fifth game, Friday night, was a different story for the Ems. Dunn, the starting pitcher, struggled early giving up six runs on six hits and two walks in two innings. His counterpart for the Hawks, Jose Pina, quieted the Emerald bats, allowing only two hits through four innings. Down by six early, the Ems couldn't mount a comeback and ended up losing the final game of the series 7-3.

Along with Kliebert, other new acquisitions to the team this week were Santiago Guerrero, who played in Eugene last season, Chad Huffman, the Padres' 3rd overall pick this year out of Texas Christian University; and pitchers Wade LeBlanc, 4th overall pick out of University of Alabama; Nate Culp, 4th round out of University of Missouri Columbia; and Andrew Underwood, 5th round out of Fresno State.

Manager Doug Dascenzo was impressed with his team's hard work, but expects it to continue to improve. "They played well, there's no question about it," he said. "We got a group of guys that have an idea of how to swing the bats. They had a good series, but that's only one of many."

Sanchez agreed with his coach's attitude. "It's the first week, you have to keep going," he said. "Play the game."

First round draft pick, Matt Antonelli, struggled at the plate in his first games as a member of the Padres Organization. He went 3-for-16 during the week, but showed his speed on the base paths by stealing four bases. The Emeralds will welcome the Spokane Indians into town for the home opener and beginning of another a 5-game series, Saturday, June 24 at 7:05 pm.

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