He suffered through a 13-hour flight to a place he honestly wanted to avoid, but Jason Ritter looked at home on Thursday.
Ritter (1-0) pitched four strong innings in relief during his Spokane debut and took the win in an 8-5 decision over Southern Oregon.
By snapping Southern Oregon’s five-game winning streak, Spokane matched the A’s 6-8 record and drew within one game of secondplace Bellingham in the Northwest League’s Northern Division.
Nothing against Spokane and its well-tended Seafirst Stadium, but Ritter has already pitched in the NWL. After his 1994 season in Eugene, he moved up to long-season Class A in the Midwest League and had steady progress on his mind.
“I was getting hit around (at Springfield, Ill.) and (the Kansas City Royals) thought I needed to work on my delivery,” said Ritter, 2-4 with Eugene last year.
The Royals sent Ritter to their Rookie League team in Fort Myers, Fla. Once he was ready - Wednesday, in fact - they shipped him on a flight to Spokane. A flight that, through various mishaps, lasted more than half a day and resulted in lost luggage.
“My luggage arrived an hour and a half before (Thursday’s) game,” Ritter said.
Ritter relieved Justin Adam after the Indians starter walked the first two batters in the fifth. David Slemmer’s bunt single, David Newhan’s sacrifice fly and Miguel Tejada’s two-run triple to right-center put Ritter in line to lose, with Spokane’s 4-2 lead becoming a 5-4 deficit.
The rest of the night, however, belonged to Spokane and Ritter, starting with William Roland’s massive solo home run to left to tie the game 5-5 in the fifth. Roland estimated the blast at 400 feet.
Off the hook, Ritter retired nine consecutive A’s and 10 of the final 11 batters he faced. Spokane’s Craig Sanders began the ninth and left the final out, a grounder by Newhan, to Jonathan Albrecht. The lefty closer has four saves in the past eight games.
“At first I was a little disappointed (about returning to the NWL), but it’s all about having a uniform on,” Ritter said. “This is a good league and I learned a lot here last year.”
“I like (Ritter),” said Spokane manager Al Pedrique. “He’s real aggressive. He had good control tonight, with a good curveball. He knows the league, so he should help us.”
Pedrique and batting coach Cliff Pastornicky spent extra time with the hitters prior to the game. Spokane responded with 10 hits and several hard-hit balls that contributed to five A’s errors.
Roland raised his average to .333 by going 3 for 4. He sparked a two-run fourth by leading off with a single, and singled home a run during a two-run seventh that pinned the loss on reliever Todd Abbott (1-1), son of former majorleaguer Glenn Abbott.
Tony Miranda and Patrick Hallmark, hitting first and second in the Spokane lineup, had two hits apiece. Cleanup hitter James Vida extended his hitting streak to nine games with a first-inning double that scored Brett Schafer after a two-out single.
Alex Rondon had two hits, including a run-scoring double in the second, for Southern Oregon.
Spokane’s Stephen Prihoda (0- 0, 0.93), who threw five innings of no-hit ball in his first start Saturday, starts tonight against Kevin Mlodik (0-0, 7.36)… . Indians outfielder Miranda is batting 7 of 14 when he plays in left. The other Spokane left fielders are 5 of 40. Miranda also has two of the team’s three stolen bases. Every other NWL team has at least 11 stolen bases… . Tonight is the first of three 50-cent feast nights. All Pepsi, hot dogs and ice cream sandwiches are 50 cents.