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Updated: September 12, 2018
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Grand Slam/Marco Stoovelaar
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Compiled and Copyright © 1997-2018 by Marco Stoovelaar

(Story by Marco Stoovelaar; Photo courtesy of Bristol Pirates)

Eugene Emeralds wins Northwest-title on walk-off balk

EUGENE, Oregon (USA) - Eugene Emeralds captured the championship-title in the Northwest League (Single-A Short-season) in a peculiar way. On Tuesday-evening (September 11), the team won 3-2 against Spokane Indians to complete a 3-game sweep in the best-of-five Final. The deciding run in the third game was scored with two outs on a balk with the bases loaded!

Eugene Emeralds is one of the Single-A teams of Chicago Cubs. For the team, this was its second title in three years after also having been the champion in 2016. The team earlier won the championship-title in 1955, 1974, 1975 and 1980.

The road to the Final also was remarkable. In the regular season, Eugene Emeralds closed with a 31-45 record and finished last in the overall standings!

The Northwest League, which is compiled of teams from the Northwest of the USA and the west of Canada, is split in two halves to decide the teams for the Play-Offs. In the North Division, Everett AquaSox (Seattle Mariners) won the first half and Spokane Indians (Texas Rangers) won the second half to qualify for the best-of-three Play-Off.

In the South Division, Hillsboro Hops (Arizona Diamondbacks) finished in first place of the first half of the season. With one game remaining in the regular season, Eugene won 4-2 vs. Boise Hawks (Colorado Rockies) on a 2-out single in the top of the ninth inning. With the win, Eugene finished just in front of Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (San Francisco Giants) in second place of the second half to reach to Play-Offs.

In the Play-Offs, Spokane won two of the three games against Everett to advance to the Final. Eugene swept Hillboro in two games to become the first finalist.

On Sunday, Eugene opened the best-of-five Final with a 3-2 win at Spokane. On Monday, also in Spokane, Eugene recorded a 4-0 shutout.

In the bottom of the first inning of the third game, Eugene opened the score at home in PK Park. With two outs, Nelson Velazquez (double) was on second base and he scored when Levi Jordan reached on an error.

In the top of the second inning, Sherten Apostel singled with one out for Spokane. Moments later, he scored the tying run with two outs on a single by Francisco Ventura.

...Sherten Apostel...
(© Ph: Bristol Pirates)
With one out in the fourth inning, it was Apostel who put Spokane ahead, 2-1, when he homered. The 19-year old third baseman from Curaçao plays professionally since 2016. This season, he opened in the Rookie League, playing in 41 games for Bristol Pirates (Pittsburgh Pirates), hitting .259. On August 17, Apostel was traded to the Texas Rangers-organization and was assigned to Spokane. There, he played in twelve games, htting .351 and batted in ten runs. His 18-year old brother Shendrik Apostel (first base) plays in the Rookie League of the Pittsburgh Pirates-organization.

In the meantime, Eugene was held scoreless until the ninth inning, but then, reliever Emmanuel Clase ran into problems. Clase, who had taken over the pitching for Spokane with one out in the previous inning, first gave up a lead-off single to Jonathan Sierra. With one out, Fernando Kelli also singled. Next, Kelli was forced out on a grounder by pinch-hitter Yonathan Perlaza. Hereafter, Perlaza stole second base and the bases got loaded when pinch-hitter Jake Slaughter was hit by a pitch. The tying run was then scored when Clase walked Andy Weber. That brought up Nelson Velazquez, who had scored Eugene's first run in the first inning. On the first pitch to Velazquez, Clase stumbled and a balk was called by Home Plate Umpire Ray Patchen. As the bases were loaded, the balk resulted in the winning run and the championship-title for Eugene Emeralds.

One of the umpires in the 4-man crew of the Final was 23-year old Emma Charlesworth-Seiler, who was at second base. She was behind the plate in the series-opener, then at third base in the second game. Emma Charlesworth-Seiler is one of only two women currently umpiring in professional baseball leagues that are affiliated with Major League Baseball. The other is Jen Pawol, who in February of this year during Major League Spring Training officiated in a game of Detroit Tigers. Last year, Charlesworth-Seiler made her professional umpiring debut, becoming the eighth woman to umpire in a Minor League. The first was Pam Postema, who led games in 1977-1989, including six years in Triple-A. Postema was considered a prospect for the Major League, but never promoted to the big league. However, in 1988, she became the first female umpire to officiate in Major League Spring Training-games. It took until 2007 before the second woman worked a Spring Training-game.

(September 12)

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