Emeralds hit early and often in win

EUGENE – The Eugene Emeralds treated their 3,206 fans in attendance on Tuesday night to quite a show, as impressive pitching was matched with even better hitting in an 11-3 route of the visiting Everett Aquasox. Eight of the starting nine Ems batters had at least one hit, including homeruns by Craig Cooper, Chad Huffman and Kody Valverde, as they pounded out 12 hits.

After losing two out of three against Everett on the road in early July, the Emeralds entered the three-game series looking to protect their homefield. They sent Orlando Lara, who has pitched well of late, to the hill to counter Sox's starter Mike Schilling.

In his last two starts, Lara had struck out ten while only giving up two hits and four walks leading to one earned run in 8.1 innings. Included in the two starts was a July 9th start versus Everett.

Schilling, on the other hand, has struggled. He had lost four of his last five starts, giving up ten runs on 12 hits in 4.1 innings in his most recent outing against the Boise Hawks. In his last start against the Ems, he got a no decision as he pitched five innings, allowing two runs on six hits.

The Emeralds got to Schilling early. After back-to-back singles by Brian Lauderdale and Tom King to lead off the game, Craig Cooper sent a 2-1 fastball over the right field fence for his third homerun of the season. Chad Huffman was hit by the next pitch, but made the Sox pay for it as he advanced to third on a Garner Wetzel single up the middle, and scored when Kody Valverde followed with a hard hit grounder that went through the legs of Leury Bonilla at third base.

Cooper, incidentally, worked with hitting instructor Matt Howe and Padres' roving instructor Tom Gamboa before tonight's game at perfecting his swing, Cooper was rewarded for his hard work with a two-hit performance and was the player of the game.

"Gamboa's been working with me on using the whole field," said Cooper about the extra help. "Taking outside pitches to right. Matt wants me to work with being a little more quiet at the plate, keeping my head still. I think it helped tonightI was able to see pitches a little better."

A scary moment occurred in the top of the third for the Ems, when Lara narrowly deflected a liner up the middle off the bat of Marcos Villezcas. Lauderdale was there, though, to scoop up the ball, step on second and throw to first for a double play. Lara was able to shake off the play and got the next batter to ground out to end the inning.

The Emeralds continued their scoring barrage as they struck for three more runs in their half of the third. Right fielder Willy Crafort reached on an overthrow by Diaz, the shortstop, and was awarded second base when the ball went into the dugout. Crafort then scored as Wetzel singled to right-center field. Valverde followed Wetzel by smashing a two-run homerun to deep left-center field, putting the Emeralds up 7-to-0.

The Aquasox finally were able to strike back in the fourth, as they scored two runs on three hits, including a two-run homerun off the bat of Curtis Ledbetter. Lara finished the inning, which was his last by notching his fifth strikeout of the game.

The Emeralds would not be outdone tonight, as they put up three hits of their own for three runs off reliever Greg Nesbitt in the bottom half. After Cooper singled to leadoff the inning, Huffman lined his fifth homer of the season to left field after falling behind 1-2, and battling through a ten pitch at-bat. Luke Cannon tripled on the next pitch and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Crafort.

Relief pitcher, Jon Kirby, entered the game in the fifth for the Emeralds. In his last three appearances Kirby has been lights out, giving up only one hit in three innings and no runs. Kirby's shutout streak was ended when a one-out walk to Marcos Villezcas stung him for a run after an error and a fielder's choice allowed him to circle the bases, Kirby continued his strong pitching by retiring the final eight batters he faced. In all, he pitched three innings, allowing no hits and only the lone unearned run.

Rolando Valdez entered in the 8th inning for the Emeralds and was able to close down the game for the Emeralds and capped off an impressive overall performance by the bullpen, which didn't allow a hit in five innings of work.

With the Padres' roving instructors in town over the last week, the Emeralds hitters have been getting extra attention, and they were able to show it tonight and last night, in which they had eighteen hits.

"We pulled out a big win tonight," said Kirby. "We've been struggling a little bit of late, bats haven't come around and when our pitching has done well, our bats weren't there… and when our bats were there, out pitching wasn't. But we put it all together tonight and pulled in a big W."

When asked whether the Ems' yellow jerseys, which they've worn in their last three wins, had anything to do with the success, Crafort, who suggested wearing the uniforms to manager Doug Dascenzo prior to Monday's win, simply replied: "Yeah."

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