After the chaos on July 4th, the Emeralds return to the familiar and conquer Hillsboro

    Eugene Emeralds

July 5, 2024 – Northwest League (NWL)
Press release from Eugene Emeralds

EUGENE, OR – For Allan Benavides, Thursday afternoon felt nostalgic, longing and gratefully familiar.

The evening tee time. The red, white and blue flags. Even the traffic clogging Martin Luther King Avenue on its way to PK Park in the morning. “You can feel the excitement,” said Benavides, who has been the Emeralds’ general manager for 14 years. “Nothing is like the Fourth of July here at PK Park.”

Especially this year.

After the city of Eugene voted against the future Ems Stadium, a return to the usual – nearly perfect – Fourth of July was desperately needed. However, Benavides and the Emeralds were more than ready to return to the usual schedule.

They achieved this with a loud bang on Thursday in their 2-1 victory against the Hillsboro Hops.

After last night’s hysteria, which culminated with fireworks in the night sky following the Emeralds’ loss to Hillsboro, the Emeralds’ performance on Monday night felt more like a routine work shift.

There was little flash. Not much pizzazz. But behind a scoreless one-run start by Joe Whitman in six innings and a bone-crushing one-run home run by Cole Foster in the sixth inning, there was plenty of substance in a 2-1 victory over the Hillsboro Hops at PK Park.

Whitman was the key player of the night, striking out seven players and allowing just three hits. The left-hander didn’t get a hit until the sixth inning — although he did notably allow a run on an error and a sacrifice fly — and allowed all three hits in his final two innings.

Whitman’s performance is just the continuation of his surprising start to his High-A career. He has allowed three or fewer runs in his last five appearances since San Jose.

In fact, there were other small advantages for the Emeralds on Friday night, as they took a game back and now have a chance to close out the six-game series with another win tomorrow night.

Led by Nick Morreale, the bullpen threw three scoreless innings behind Whitman, who lowered his ERA to 2.37.

And on offense, the Ems did just well enough, with Foster’s first High-A home run being the biggest blow.

With Eugene four games behind first place, more nights like this will surely be needed – 18 such games will take place against Vancouver.

The Emeralds left only one runner on base, another trend the Emeralds can get used to in the spring of a season.

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