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Hops shine in 0-0 NWL All-Star Game

Photo Credit: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: ZACK PALMER - Hillsboro Hops outfielder Jordan Parr (right) and relief pitcher Cody Geyer sign  autographs before Tuesday's Northwest League All-Star Game at PK Park in Eugene.EUGENE — Before Tuesday’s Northwest League All-Star Game at PK Park, the press announcer boomed over the stadium loudspeakers that the game would last no longer than 10 innings, regardless of the score.

Three hours and 10 innings later, well, the score looked the same as it did at the start.

There weren’t many fireworks in Tuesday’s 0-0 tie, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t a memorable experience for the seven Hillsboro Hops who played in the NWL’s annual All-Star contest.

“It was a long game, but it was a lot of fun. I was still playing with the best guys in the league and playing with some of my friends,” said Hops rookie Grant Heyman, who started in left field for the South Division team. “It was really relaxed, fun. Everyone was outgoing, and we all had a good time.”

“It was a lot of fun,” Hillsboro closer Zac Curtis said. “We got to see the best players in the league play. We got to meet a lot of good guys — a lot of guys you wouldn’t probably get to meet any other time. It was a good atmosphere.”

Hillsboro’s pitching staff was well represented, with starters Nick Baker, Ryan Dolan and Ben Eckels all earning selections to the South team, as well as Curtis, who leads the league with 12 saves.

Doran and Eckels were unable to participate due to injuries, so teammates Cody Geyer and Dustin Loggins traveled to Eugene in their stead.

Hops pitchers handled six of the 10 innings, limiting the North to four hits and no runs. Spokane third baseman Jose Trevino won MVP honors after going 2 for 4 with two doubles, but a strong case could have been made for Hillsboro’s pitching staff, which finished with five strikeouts and pitched out of a few sticky situations.

“The pitchers were great — that’s why it was 0-0,” Heyman said. “They’ve been good all year. It was fun to see them come and dominate in this game, too.”

Baker earned the start on the mound for the South and pitched two perfect innings, retiring all six batters he faced. Heyman, meanwhile, laced a two-out single to right field in the bottom of the second but was stranded when Salem-Keizer’s Travious Relaford grounded out to end the inning.

The North didn’t put a runner on base until Spokane second baseman Seth Spivey singled in the top of the fourth. The speedy Spivey stole second and moved to third on a throwing error, but he was thrown out at the plate on an attempted double steal with two outs.

The South took on a decidedly more Hops-heavy look in the top of the sixth, when Geyer came in to pitch, Elvin Soto came in to catch and Jordan Parr entered the game in right field. Geyer gave up a one-out double to Spokane’s Eduard Pinto, but Soto bailed him out with a great throw to nail Pinto attempting to steal third.

Loggins came on to pitch the seventh inning, relieving Geyer, and gave up an infield single to Everett’s Kyle Petty and a two-out double to Trevino before working out of the jam and preserving the scoreless tie.

With zeroes still up across the scoreboard, Curtis — Hillsboro’s long-haired, Oakley-wearing, hard-throwing closer — came in and pitched a perfect ninth inning, striking out two batters.

When the South couldn’t push across a run in the bottom of the ninth, Curtis came out to pitch again in the 10th and surrendered a leadoff double to Trevino, but then retired the next three batters to get out of trouble.

Heyman had a chance to play hero but struck out swinging in the bottom of the 10th, and Relaford’s pop-out mercifully ended things.

“It was a good, competitive game,” Curtis said. “It didn’t come out like anybody wanted. Somebody wanted to win, but it just didn’t happen that way. Everyone was great about it, and it was a great game.”

Heyman went 1 for 3 with a single and a walk, Parr was 0 for 1 with a walk and Soto went 0 for 2. Baker and Curtis each pitched two innings, while Geyer and Loggins threw an inning apiece.

Despite the lack of offensive highlights, Hops players seemed to genuinely enjoy the evening.

“(We were) well represented at the All-Star game for Hillsboro,” Curtis said. “It shows what kind of team we have and what kind of organization Arizona has, and what they’re developing.

“It was a great experience. We all got to come down together, we’d all go out to eat together. It was a little more team bonding, a little more camaraderie. It sucks that more of the guys couldn’t be here, but we’ll be able to take this back and share with everybody what it’s like to go.”

Echoed Heyman: “It was really exciting for me. To represent Hillsboro is definitely an honor. It was really fun, and hopefully I can do it again.”