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Thompson shines in TJs win

Rejuvenated pitcher Eric Thompson of the Southern Oregon Timberjacks was back on track Monday night after missing two starts due to an ailing right shoulder.

Thompson blanked the Eugene Emeralds over five innings and Southern Oregon's offense did the rest as the Timberjacks belted the Ems 8-1 before a crowd of 1,489 at Miles Field.

The win, combined with Salem-Keizer's 6-4 victory over Portland, kept the two teams in a tie for first place in the Southern Division of the Northwest League at 41-33.

Thompson struck out four batters and allowed just five hits in winning his fifth game against two losses.

My arm felt real good, said Thompson. It really helped to miss two starts and let it rest. I had a little tendinitis and the rest was all it needed.

Thompson threw just 55 pitches in five innings.

We were being real careful, said Southern Oregon manager Greg Sparks. We didn't want to push it.

Eric threw real well and did a good job in all but one inning.

Southern Oregon didn't let the tension of its make-or-break series disturb what could be the shining moments for the Timberjacks.

I told our guys to just relax and go out and play, said Sparks. After all the hard work, this (pennant race) is the fun part.

Justin Hall, Jesus Basabe and Oscar Salazar all collected two hits in four at-bats for the Timberjacks, but the big hit of the night came in the seventh inning when third baseman Matt Howe hit a two-run home run.

The high drive down the left-field line managed to hook just inside the foul pole for Howe's fifth homer of the season.

I don't know if I got a fastball or a changeup, said Howe. But I hit it well. It felt good.

With Southern Oregon's bullpen also performing well, the 8-0 lead was safe as Matt Klein pitched three innings, allowing just one run, and Scott Oyler worked a scoreless ninth.

It's kind of nice to get the hits and the runs we're getting right now, said Thompson. It makes a pitcher feel real comfortable. You know if you get behind, the offense can bring us back.

Southern Oregon scored single runs in the first and second innings to give Thompson an early lead. Justin Hall doubled and scored on a throwing error after a Jesus Basabe single.

In the second, Salazar tripled and scored on an infield groundout by Juan Camilo.

In the fifth inning, Brad Gorrie was hit by a pitch and scored on a single to center field by Justin Hall. The second Southern Oregon run of the inning came on a throwing error by Eugene shortstop Al Castro.

Left-hander Brandon Nogowski is scheduled to be Southern Oregon's starting pitcher tonight in the second game of the series at Miles Field. Game time is 7:05 p.m.

Besides winning their final two games, the Timberjacks need Salem-Keizer to lose at least one of its next two games at Portland to win the Southern Division title and get into the Northwest League championship series.

If the two teams tie for the division title, Salem-Keizer will qualify to meet either Boise or Spokane in the best-of-5 finals. Salem-Keizer earned the tiebreaker by defeating Southern Oregon in 7 of 12 meetings this season.