Jared Bolden didn’t want to jinx it, but in the bottom of the ninth inning, his team down one run, he had a realization.
This is the type of game the Spokane Indians have to be ready for. A close game against a tough opponent – playoff-caliber baseball.
So Bolden stepped to the plate with the game now tied. Runners on first and second, two outs. He fought his way to a full count, then hit a chopper past first base to Boise second-baseman Dwane Kemp.
But the pressure was high and Kemp’s throw was wild. Bolden was given a hit, but the throwing error allowed Zach Zaneski to scamper home from second for the win as the Indians overcame the Hawks 3-2.
“This was kind of a playoff-atmosphere-type game,” said Bolden, who finished 1 for 5. “To play a tight game like we did kind of helps us out, because we get prepared for the playoffs where there’s a good chance that games are going to be 2-1, 3-1. You know, very close games.
“So, I think getting that (experience) a little bit ahead of time and being able to come out on top will hopefully help us out going into the playoffs.”
Looking just at numbers, Monday’s win at Avista Stadium didn’t really mean much. The Indians (49-25) have already clinched the Northwest League East Division title and a berth in the Championship Series, which starts Thursday in Spokane.
But the victory meant a lot to Spokane manager Tim Hulett.
“We want to create momentum going into the playoffs,” he said. “So, you know, this didn’t mean much to Boise, but it means a lot for us. Especially a win like this, to get us going.”
The Hawks (43-31) won two of three games against Spokane during the weekend in Boise. And for a long time Monday, it looked as though the Indians were going to make it three straight losses.
In the fifth, Boise’s Michael Remly hit a solo home run off reliever Eric Evans, who made his Indians debut after being called up from the Arizona Rookie League last week, filling the spot vacated by injured Mike Bianucci (broken hand). The next inning, a well-timed hit-and-run gave the Hawks a 2-0 lead.
The Indians got on the board in the bottom of the sixth when David Paisano strolled home after Boise reliever Harol Tolentino overthrew first on a pick-off attempt.
“It’s hard to start rallies with two (outs), but we have all year,” Hulett said. “We’re never going to say we don’t want that two-out hit, but we’d like to get a two-out hit with guys in scoring position. And we didn’t do that until late tonight.”
Joey Butler and Dennis Guinn started the bottom of the ninth drawing walks. Ed Koncel dropped a bunt down the third-base line, advancing the runners. But when Zaneski bounced a ball into the infield, Boise threw out Butler at home.
Up stepped a hot Kyle Higgins, who was 3 for 3. He drilled a single to center to bring in the tying run.
Bolden followed Higgins and did his thing, winning the game for the Indians.
“You never want to go into a playoff situation stale. You want to be fresh,” Higgins said. “Because once you get there, it’s not the best team that wins, it’s the team that plays the best; the hottest team. The rest of the season doesn’t matter.”
Starting Thursday, the Indians will play the winner of the NWL’s West Division, Salem-Keizer or Eugene. Eugene (38-36) closed to within a game of the Volcanoes (39-35) Monday.