Thousands of people picked the Spokane County Interstate Fair over the Indians’ game next door for their entertainment Friday.
They picked the wrong venue.
Game 2 of the Northwest League championship series went 10 innings before Spokane prevailed 11-10 over Salem-Keizer, giving the teams a split of the first two games of the best-of-5 series.
It was 10 innings full of hits, mistakes, home runs, beaned batters, controversial calls and an ejected Volcanoes manager.
To top it off, S-K skipper Tom Trebelhorn protested the game.
“But it’s all part of the entertainment package,” he said. “It’s too bad five or six thousand people over at the fair missed it, because it was fun time. It was a great game, very interesting. A lot of ups, a lot of downs, a lot of controversy.
“It was a tremendous, hard-fought game by both teams. And batting last was an advantage.”
In the bottom of the 10th, Spokane catcher Doug Hogan hit a game-winning leadoff home run over the left-field wall. .
It was the last game this season at Avista Stadium, which sits on one corner of the Fairgrounds. Both teams made the trip Friday night to Keizer, Ore., for the conclusion of the series. Game 3 is tonight.
Hogan was an unlikely hero. He entered the game to catch for Spokane in the top of the seventh inning following a controversial play in the bottom of the sixth that involved Indians starting catcher Zach Zaneski. The play sent Trebelhorn into a dirt-kicking, hat-throwing rage and got NWL president Bob Richmond, who was in attendance, involved.
The Indians had the bases loaded with one out, trailing 4-2. Volcanoes starter Kyle Nicholson, pitching in his first NWL game after being promoted from rookie league, had tired and Trebelhorn pulled him.
The first batter reliever Eric Stolp faced was Zaneski. Zaneski dribbled a ground ball toward first baseman Mike Loberg, who tagged first, then rifled the ball home.
But the throw hit Zaneski, who was running up the baseline. Joey Butler scored, and the umpires – Brett Terry at first and Adam Schwarz at home – said Zaneski didn’t interfere.
“Your entire body has to be in foul territory,” Trebelhorn said of an already-out runner, in this case Zaneski. “And it was hopefully within their umpiring ability, and within their judgment, that they have demonstrated to me this year, to be able to handle it correctly. And they didn’t.”
Trebelhorn stormed out to argue with Terry, who put up with it for a few minutes before throwing Trebelhorn out of the game. But Trebelhorn kept going, giving Schwarz a piece of his mind, throwing around his cap and kicking dirt on home plate.
Finally, Trebelhorn retreated into the Volcanoes locker room. There, he drafted the protest to hand to Richmond after the game.
But according to Major League Baseball rules, an umpire’s judgment call cannot be protested. Richmond cited this rule and disallowed the protest.
The bottom of the sixth wasn’t over. Jared Bolden smacked a bases-loaded line drive that hit the right-field wall just inches from the top for a double that brought in three more runs. Spokane had a 6-4 lead.
“It seemed like (chaos) really happened afterward,” Trebelhorn said. “So maybe my displeasure was slightly justified, that their umpiring got the game to go all to hell.”
“I think what got the momentum (going) for us was when the coach got a little heated up, obviously, and got tossed out of the game,” said Bolden. “I think that right there was what got us motivated.”
But the momentum would go back and forth. Johnny Monell hit a three-run homer in the next inning for Salem-Keizer.
Then a two-run homer by Spokane’s Eric Fry and an RBI double by Dennis Guinn put the Indians on top again. Three more S-K runs in the top of the eighth made the game 10-9, but Spokane’s Kyle Higgins hit his first professional home run to tie it in the bottom of the inning.
“Great teams overcome obstacles, and man we created a lot of obstacles for us today,” Spokane manager Tim Hulett said. “But these guys stayed in there, they kept digging and scoring runs. And we made mistakes. We overcame mistakes, over and over and over.
“It was a great win.”
But both teams had their share of mistakes. And each team went through five pitchers.
Nicholson had the most luck against the Indians, allowing eight hits and two runs in 41/3 innings. Jason Neitz, Brian Irving and Aaron King all blew a save opportunity, with King getting the loss by giving up Hogan’s game-winning homer.
For Spokane, 17-year-old Martin Perez started out shaky, with the Volcanoes scoring a run in each of the first three innings. The relievers had similar poor luck, until Hulett put in Corey Young, who threw the final 21/3 innings and gave up just one hit to earn the win and send the Indians on the road with some confidence.
During the regular season, Spokane had the league’s best road record, 26-12, and two-time defending NWL and West Division champion Salem-Keizer had the worst home record (16-22).
“It’s huge for us,” Hogan said of the victory. “That was such a tough ballgame to play in because … it’s a slugfest. Both teams are swinging the bats so well. They’re a tough team to play right now.”