Freese carries Eugene on his bat

EUGENE- Down 10-9 with two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh inning, the Eugene Emeralds sent the appropriate man to the plate.                        

The man was third baseman David Freese, the Northwest League leader in RBIs, who drilled a base-clearing double down the left field line on a 3-1 pitch to propel the Emeralds to a 12-10 victory against the league's top team, the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, on Monday night.

"I knew the pitcher wasn't going to give me anything to hit right off the bat," Freese, a ninth-round selection out of South Alabama said. "I was just trying to stay patient and get a ball I can hit."

Freese ended with a career night. He was a perfect 4-for-4 with two doubles, a single and a homerun to go along with seven RBIs.

"I can't remember the last time I ever had seven RBIs," an elated Freese admitted. "It feels good getting a win like this especially in front of 7,000 people."

Freese now has 23 RBIs on the season, six ahead of the next closest. He also holds the third best batting average in the league at .373 and is second in the league with four homeruns.

"He's pretty solid," manager Doug Dascenzo said. "He works every pitch. He doesn't give any pitch away."

Freese's monster homerun in the fifth inning also ignited the Emeralds first comeback. Down 7-2 after the Volcanoes posted six runs in their half of the fifth, Ray Stokes led off with a single and Matt Antonelli walked, bringing up Freese, who's blast cleared the centerfield fence marked at 400 feet to cut the score to 7-5.

Later that inning, Craig Cooper singled and Chad Huffman followed with the inning's second homerun and his third of the season to knot the score at 7-7.

"They've never panicked at any one point and they didn't do it after they were down 7-2," Dascenzo revealed.

The Volcanoes broke the tie with one run in the sixth after Eugene pitcher Geoff Vandel walked two Salem-Keizer batters and Will Thompson, the league's batting leader, recorded his second RBI of the game with a sacrifice groundout.

Salem-Keizer added two more in the seventh to take a 10-7 lead before Freese's and the Emerald's big seventh inning.

The inning began when Huffman led off with a single. Catcher Kody Valverde followed with a single of his own and Willy Crafort walked to load the bases. Volcanoes pitcher, Paul Oseguera then walked shortstop Tom King, allowing Huffman to score. Steven Calicutt replaced Oseguera, but didn't fare much better. After forcing a ground ball and getting the lead runner at home for the first out of the inning, Epping hit a sacrifice fly to cut the lead to 10-9.

First round pick Matt Antonelli then followed with what Dascenzo called the key at bat. Antonelli fouled off nearly ten pitches with the count full before drawing the walk to load the bases for Freese's base-clearing double.

"He fought off, battled and battled and set it up. That's the way it is supposed to work," Dascenzo said. "Every guy's got to pick another guy up. That was nice to see."

The Emeralds knew the victory would not be an easy one and it was fitting they used the firepower they did on a night when the crowd would be entertained with post-game fireworks.

Eugene quickly jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Epping led off and was hit by a pitch. He later scored on Freese's first double of the game. Freese then scored on a passed ball.

But the Volcanoes broke the game open after initially struggling against Eugene starter Nate Culp, a fourth round selection out of the University of Missouri. Culp went 3.1 innings, giving up only three hits and one run, which was unearned.

Salem-Keizer got on the board first in the fourth and tacked on six runs in the fifth. Neal got things started with his third homerun of the season over the left-field fence. That tied the score. After Emeralds' pitcher Patrick Clayton walked Lance Salsgiver, Brian Bocock, the number nine hitter in the Volcanoes lineup, doubled. Emmanuel Burris then hit a sacrifice fly to score Salsgiver. Clayton then walked Michael McBryde and Vandel replaced Clayton on the mound. Thompson, the Volcanoes top hitter, then singled to score Bocock and third baseman Ryan Rohlinger singled to score McBryde, which made the score 5-2.

But the Volcanoes weren't done yet thanks to some sloppy fielding by the Emeralds. Vandel got Salem-Keizer catcher Henry Gutierrez to ground into what looked like a double play, but Stokes mishandled the ball and his flick to second base was off the mark allowing Rohlinger and Gutierrez to be safe on the play. That proved costly when designated hitter Evan Bush hit a single to score Thompson and Rohlinger and make the score 7-2 before Eugene's comeback in the fifth.

Valdez picked up the win for the Emeralds after pitching 1.1 innings of relief, giving up one hit and no runs. Justin Mattison picked up his fourth save of the season. Paul Oseguera picked up the loss for the Volcanoes after lasting 1.2 innings and allowing four hits and four runs.

The win ends a three-game skid for the Emeralds and hands the Volcanoes only their third loss this season.

The two meet again on Tuesday, this time in Salem to begin a mini three-game series before they return to Eugene for the final game of the six-game series on Friday. Tomorrow's game is set for 7:05.


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