S. Oregon is down to one game
The chase is down to the final night.
The Southern Oregon Timberjacks defeated Eugene 8-4 Tuesday night at Miles Field. Still, time is running out.
The Timberjacks entered the final three games of the Northwest League season needing to take care of business against the Emeralds and get a helping hand from the Portland Rockies.
So far, Southern Oregon has done what it could -- beat Eugene twice. But Portland has been little help. Salem-Keizer defeated the Rockies 8-7 Tuesday to remain tied with the Timberjacks for first place in the Southern Division at 42-33 heading into tonight's action.
If both leaders win or both lose, Salem would advance to the NWL championship series against Spokane or Boise. Spokane defeated Boise 11-7 to take a one-game lead into tonight.
We've got to take care of the job here, Southern Oregon manager Greg Sparks said. We don't control anything Salem or Portland does. Our problem is across the diamond and we have to lay it out there.
The Timberjacks struggled with holding onto everything they got against the Emeralds Tuesday. League MVP Jason Hart staked Southern Oregon to a 3-0 first-inning lead, but the TJs couldn't hold it.
We'd score, they'd score, we'd score, they'd score, said third baseman Matt Howe, who drove in the go-ahead run with a single to right field as Southern Oregon erupted for four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to make a winner of reliever Jim Brink (3-0).
Jerry Simmons' two-out double to the base of the left field wall off Brink in the top of the eighth, followed by Gregg Maluchnik's looping single to right allowed Eugene to forge a 4-4 tie.
But the Timberjacks had another big inning left in their bats.
Eugene reliever Zack Frachiseur (5-4) failed to retire any of the five batters he faced, but got an out when Chris Cosbey was gunned down at second base trying to stretch an RBI single into a double to end the seventh. There was no such reprieve in the eighth.
Hart looped a double to right field. Juan Camilo promptly singled to put runners on the corners. Then Howe lashed a single through the right side to give the TJs the lead for good. Frachiseur got three balls on Oscar Salazar, including a wild pitch that scored Camilo, who walked on Brad Voyles' first pitch.
Jesus Basabe followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 7-4 and Gary Thomas singled to left to make it 8-4.
We didn't swing the bats well in the middle of the game, Sparks said. But we still came back and won it.
The last time Eugene starter Winston Abreu faced the Timberjacks, Southern Oregon struck for 10 runs in less than an inning against the lanky right-hander from Cotui, Dominican Republic, en route to a 20-6 triumph.
The 21-year-old Abreu was once considered one of the top pitching prospects in the Braves' organization, striking out better than a batter per inning in his first three years. He advanced to Macon of the South Atlantic League two years ago before an arm injury and subsequent reconstructive surgery put him on the shelf all of 1997.
Abreu ran into immediate trouble, surrendering a full-count triple down the right-field line to TJs leadoff hitter Cosbey. A walk to Justin Hall put runners on the corner, bringing Hart -- the NWL's home run and RBI leader -- to the plate. Abreu's first pitch was letter high and Hart deposited it 380 feet to the base of the light tower in right-center field.
We had a runner on third base and no outs, Hart said. I was thinking about driving the ball and maybe getting a sacrifice fly. But he gave me a pitch I could drive the other way.
It was Hart's 20th home run and gave him a league-high 69 RBIs.
I played in the Cape Cod League (a collegiate summer league) last year and hit one home run, so I thought 20 home runs was way out of the question, Hart said. I feel by hitting 20 home runs it shows I'm capable of tagging the ball. But I've got to be more disciplined.
Abreu walked the next batter, but Juan Camilo was caught stealing and a pair of strikeouts ended the inning. A bases-loaded double play kept Southern Oregon from extending its lead.
Eugene broke into the scoring column against TJs starter Brandon Nogowski in the fifth inning. Bry Ewan doubled, took third on Hart's error and scored on Nogowski's wild pitch.
After Eugene evened the score, Southern Oregon responded with a two-out rally in the bottom of the seventh. Cosbey doubled and then came around to make it 4-3 on Hall's blooper down the right-field line. But the Ems soon erased that lead.