Emeralds explode early and hang on

EUGENE – The Eugene Emeralds dug an early hole for the Tri-Cities Dust Devils on Friday night, but almost forgot to put the nail in the coffin.

Eugene cycled through its lineup in the first inning, posting six runs against starter Aneury Rodriguez. But that would be the entire output of the Emeralds offense as they hung on for a 6-5 victory. "We hung on, barely," Eugene manager Doug Dascenzo said. "I guess enough is enough when you look at it."

Eugene's explosive first inning began with a leadoff single by Mike Epping. After back-to-back singles, an RBI double by Michael Campbell, a walk, and a base-clearing triple by Jesus Lopez, the score was quickly 5-0 and Rodriguez's evening was done after just one-third of an inning. He was charged with all six Eugene runs.

"With the bases loaded and one out, I was looking for a pitch up because it's an RBI situation," Lopez said through interpreter Luany Sanchez.

Lopez's triple off a 2-1 fastball upped his RBI total to five in the last two games. He finished 1-for-3 on the night and is now hitting .264 since joining the Emeralds early last month from the Fort Wayne Wizards.

"He's had a very good approach at the plate," Dascenzo said of Lopez. "He's swinging at good pitches, and he's getting some results out of them."

Lopez scored the final run of the first inning and final run of the game for Eugene on a single by Brian Lauderdale.

Three Tri-City pitchers combined to shut down the Emeralds offense, allowing just one hit the rest of the way. Simon Ferrer, a knuckleballer, worked 5.1 innings and gave up a lone single to Lauderdale.

"These guys probably don't have a lot of experience with the knuckleball," Dascenzo admitted. "The kid (Ferrer) did a great job. Hopefully we won't see him anymore." Drew Miller and three Emerald pitchers combined to limit Tri-City to five runs on five hits. Miller, the starter, went four innings, giving up three hits and three earned runs, including four walks. He also struck out four.

"He wasn't working on all cylinders," Dascenzo said. "He was struggling a little bit more than it appeared."

Miller cruised through the first two innings, got a double-play to end a bases-load threat in the third and ran into trouble in the fourth as Tri-City mounted its comeback. An error by Brian Lauderdale at third put the leadoff man on. Miller walked the next batter and gave up an RBI double to Matt Repec.

Ramon Rodriguez followed with a weak ground ball down the third base line. Miller charged but lost the handle as he attempted to bare hand the ball and make the throw to first. The error plated another Dust Devil run. They'd add one more on a fielder's choice before the inning was over, making the score 6-3.

Tri-Cities' Michael McKenry hit a solo homerun next inning off of reliever Ben Krosschell, cutting the score to 6-4. Krosschell, who has struggled lately, worked 1.2 innings, allowing two runs on two hits, while striking out two.

He was tagged with Tri-City's final run of the game after allowing a runner on due to a past ball on a strike three call. That runner scored on a balk by reliever Jackson Quezada, to make the score 6-5. Quezada worked 2.1 innings without a hit and struck out three.

Rolando Valdez came on in the ninth to turn out the lights on Tri-City.

Eugene won despite not having the services of first-round pick Matt Antonelli and set-up man Justin Mattison. Antonelli was granted leave to tend to a family matter in Massachusetts and is set to return to the team tomorrow.

In his absence at third, Brian Lauderdale and Abraham Aguilar combined to hit 1-for-11 with two RBIs.

Mattison was in Virginia where he was getting married. He was giving a three-day leave. Eugene won for the 13th time in its last 18 games since a five-game losing streak from July 19th-July 23rd, but still sit six games behind the red-hot Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.

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