For 51/3 innings of Saturday’s 7-1 Northwest League victory over Everett, the Spokane Indians were playing station-to-station baseball.
Whether it was a walk – they had been handed seven to that point – or a single – eight – they moved around the bases 90 feet at a time.
And they usually stalled at third, until the bottom of the sixth.
That’s when cleanup hitter Jared Prince turned on a 90 mph Fray Martinez fastball with the bases loaded and drove it far over the left-wall and into the parking lot.
The grand slam – the Indians’ first of the year – powered Spokane’s win before 5,932 on fireworks night at Avista Stadium.
For the second consecutive night it was Prince, who hit a first-inning three-run homer Friday, supplying the Indians’ offensive explosion.
“It was 2-0, hitter’s count, and he gave me a fastball,” Prince said. “Like last night I was just going for the middle of the field.”
Up until the homer, the Indians (12-17) were struggling to cash in against a control-challenged AquaSox pitching staff.
Everett starter Luke Burnett (1-1) looked imposing on the mound, standing 6-foot-8 and weighing 260 pounds.
But the right-hander wasn’t. Still building strength after arm problems, according to Spokane manager Tim Hulett, Burnett rarely hit 80 mph with his fastball, struggled with his control – he walked five and threw 87 pitches in four innings.
But the Indians kept coming up empty.
In the second, when they scored twice, they loaded the bases with one out. A game-breaking hit, however, never materialized, as both runs were forced home by Burnett walks.
In the fifth, Spokane strung together three singles, but Vinnie DiFazio ran through Hulett’s stop sign on Tommy Mendonca’s single to right and was ultimately caught in a rundown. With two runners still in scoring position, Miguel Velazquez popped out to center.
“It was a tough play,” said DiFazio, who had four hits and two RBIs. “I saw the ball hit to the right side, I was digging hard and I was going to try to score. … I stopped a little too late.”
Through five innings Spokane left eight runners, five in scoring position. But Prince’s third home run of the season changed that.
“He cashed them in, all at one time,” Hulett said. “He’s been swinging the bat good lately. It’s really good to see that. It’s good to have a hot hitter like that in the middle of your lineup.”
Five Indians pitchers were busy combining to limit Everett (18-10 and second in the Northwest League’s West Division) to six hits while striking out 15.
Andrew Doyle earned the win with two innings in relief of starter Keith Campbell, who gave up just an unearned run in three innings.
“We gave up one in the first, but after that we settled in and made some good pitches against a very good hitting team,” Hulett said.
Spokane, which has won two straight, continues the homestand tonight against Everett.