EUGENE — It was back to a familiar formula with the usual Saturday result for Eugene, a win by a 4-1 margin over Spokane in a Northwest League game Saturday night in front of 3,976 at PK Park.
The Ems (8-9 in the second half) took an early lead as Brandon Hughes drove in three runs, making Eugene 15-7 this season when scoring first in a game. Then it was left to three Eugene pitchers holding the Indians (9-8) to an unearned run in the ninth inning, which made the Ems 23-3 when leading after six innings.
And that equaled the usual outcome on a Saturday, a day when Eugene is 8-1.
How simple is all that?
The Ems were on their way to their second shutout of the season until a misplayed fly ball that fell for a double, an error and a wild pitch plated the lone run for the Indians.
That was plenty as Eugene starting pitcher Javier Assad (3-5) worked five scoreless innings, allowing three hits while striking out seven. It was reminiscent of his last home start on July 29, when he allowed two runs on two hits in six innings, striking out nine.
The biggest threat against Assad came in the fifth when an error and Nick Kaye’s double put two runners in scoring position with one out. But the 20-year-old Assad struck out the first two hitters in the Spokane lineup to keep the shutout intact.
“He’s been aggressive and he actually pitched well (in a loss) on the road at Spokane,” Feliciano said, adding that Saturday “he was awesome ... he made his pitches when he had to.”
After Assad, Ben Hecht allowed one hit in two innings with three strikeouts before Luis Aquino finished up, allowing an unearned run while striking out six as the reliever’s earned run average dropped to 0.74.
Eugene took a 2-0 lead in its first at-bat. Jhonny Bethencourt doubled with one out, then scored on a bunt single by Hughes when both the Spokane pitcher and catcher went to field the baseball near the first-base line, leaving neither to cover home plate as Bethencourt raced around third and scored without a play.
“It was a heads-up play by Bethencourt,” Feliciano said. “On those plays, you’re on your own and he read it well.”
Hughes then went to second on a walk and scored on Miguel Amaya’s single to left.
The Ems made it 4-0 in the fourth when Rafael Narea’s second single of the game and an error put two runners on for Hughes to drive in both with a double to right-center.
“It was a key double,” Feliciano said. “The last couple of weeks we’ve struggled with men on third and less than two out but he got the hit there.”
The third game of the five-game series is Sunday with Corey Abbott (0-0, 4.50 earned run average), a second-round selection in the June draft out of Loyola Marymount, scheduled as the Eugene starting pitcher. Spokane will counter with Demarcus Evans (0-0, 9.00).