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Lofton provides spark for Volcanoes

Chris Lofton could have spent this month preparing to play cornerback for the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s football team.

Instead, the Salem-Keizer outfielder is putting a hit on Northwest League baseball teams.

Lofton led off Wednesday’s game at Avista Stadium with his first professional homer and used his speed to hurt the Spokane Indians in other ways during the Volcanoes’ 7-1 Northwest League win.

S-K hadn’t scored during the first two games of the five-game series until Lofton bounced a Ben Henry change-up off the top of The Depot beyond right field.

“Finally,” said the native of Raleigh, Miss. “I’ve been waiting for it for a long time.”

Lofton ended up reaching base four times, including an RBI single during the Volcanoes’ four-run second. He scored twice and stole two bases, including second base in the fourth while reliever Ben Rowen stood on the mound.

“I thought I had (Rowen) figured out and he was just holding it a little too long,” Lofton said.

Lofton also robbed Josh Richmond of an extra-base hit by outrunning his long drive to right-center in the fourth.

It was the kind of turn-and-run move that assisted him during two years with the Jones County (Miss.) Junior College football team.

Lofton, who also played baseball at Jones County, was set to transfer to UAB for football this fall, but the San Francisco Giants made a different offer in June. The Giants selected him in the ninth round of the draft, signed him for $85,000 and agreed to pay for his final two years of college at Southern Mississippi.

“It’s a decision my mom (Tina Keyes) and I made together, so I could help her financially,” Lofton said.

Infielders Raynor Campbell and Danny Brock also homered for the Volcanoes, who snapped a six-game losing streak.

Taylor Rogers (4-3), making his 10th start, had little trouble with the Indians, allowing one earned run in six innings while striking out six.

Henry (2-2) had an odd second inning, striking out the side but allowing four singles and four earned runs.

Santiago Chirino had Spokane’s RBI in the second, on a chopper over Rogers’ head after Richmond led off with a double to right-center.

Kevin Rodland had two stellar moments at third base for the Indians, turning double plays in the third and fourth. On the second one, he raced into foul territory for a pop-up and threw out Lofton, attempting to score from third base.

“The umpire made the call, so you have to go with what he called,” Lofton said.

Spokane had won 18 of its previous 21 games at Avista and is 18-7 at home.

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