The Hillsboro Hops are trying to shock the Northwest League’s South Division in much the same way the Spokane Indians have surprised the North Division.
The Hops scored two runs in the top of the 10th inning Saturday night to answer the Indians’ ninth-inning rally during a 7-5 Hillsboro victory at Avista Stadium.
Hillsboro, with a 12-11 record during the second half of the season, has surpassed its win total from the first half, when the Hops were 11-27. Hillsboro moved within three games of first-place Salem-Keizer in the South.
“The first half of the season, we knew we were a lot better than what we were playing,” said Hops shortstop Ryan Gebhardt, who went 4 for 6 and drove in two runs, including the final run in the 10th. “We lost a lot of one-run games, lost some walk-off games. So we knew we had a chance to be good in the second half.”
The Indians, who scored three runs in the ninth to force extra innings, dropped to 12-11 for the second half. Spokane leads the North by two games over Everett and Vancouver with 15 games left.
Spokane had its six-game winning streak snapped. The last Indians team to win seven consecutive games was the 1997 squad.
“The guys have played well recently and we haven’t tried to do anything different during the streak,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said.
The Hops built a 5-1 lead through seven innings as starter Ross Gerdeman cruised through six consecutive scoreless innings after surrendering Marcus Greene’s two-out solo homer to left field in the first.
Indians starter Ryne Slack, who entered with a 2-0 record and 1.34 earned-run average, struggled from the beginning. Slack allowed 12 hits and four earned runs in five innings.
“We wanted him to chew up some innings and he’s a strong kid, so he usually can go a little longer,” Hulett said. “He didn’t really pitch all that bad. The linescore is going to show a lot of hits, but he gave up some bloop hits.”
The Indians rallied with two out in the ninth against Will Locante. Joe Jackson started the comeback by beating out an infield single. Cam Schiller singled sharply to left field and Janluis Castro blooped a double to left to score Jackson. Schiller and Castro scored on wild pitches.
The Hops wasted no time fighting back against Ricardo Rodriguez (0-1). Jordan Parr led off the 10th with a single, stole second and scored on catcher Jackson’s throwing error to first base on John Leonard’s bunt. Gebhardt singled home Leonard with one out.
Hillsboro is 4-3 against Spokane this season.