Nicholas’ slam leads parade of lively bats for Indians
Spokane has led the Northwest League in team batting average for a big chunk of the season, and now some Indians who had struggled at the plate are starting to click.
The Indians cranked out 16 hits and punished Eugene pitching for an eight-run sixth inning and a five-run eighth during Monday night’s 13-2 victory at Avista Stadium.
Spokane leads the five-game series 3-1 heading into tonight’s finale.
Right fielder Ryan Strausborger, who entered August with a .213 batting average, had his second four-hit game of the series by going 4 for 6 from the leadoff position. Strausborger, now up to .279, has 18 hits in his last 34 at-bats and is hitting .397 for the month.
“I guess that the start of a new month you can almost think about as a start of a new season,” Strausborger said. “August was a whole new month and I had to clear my head and start over.”
Spokane shortstop Jurickson Profar, whose average had dipped to .231, went 2 for 4 with a big two-run double and is 9 for his last 15 to jump to .255.
“It’s the same swing, I’m just a little more confident now,” Profar said. “The only thing I could do was keep fighting in the batter’s box.”
And catcher Brett Nicholas, whose playing time has diminished since the arrival of first-round draft pick Kellen Deglin, had the biggest hit of all, an eighth-inning grand slam for his second professional homer.
“I was hoping for a fastball and gearing up for it, and luckily things met right,” said the Phoenix native, who had family in the stands. “It’s a memory that I’ll keep forever.”
Add seldom-used infielder Alejandro Selen to the mix. Selen went 2 for 4 and has seven hits in his last 12 at-bats.
Eugene starter Matt Hardy baffled Spokane with off-speed pitches for five innings and left with a 1-0 lead after striking out nine.
“He was challenging the hitters and we all knew what was coming,” Strausborger said. “He was saying, ‘Here it is. See if you can hit it.’ ”
Indians starter Randol Rojas was equal to the task, striking out a season-high nine in five innings. Rojas had struck out nine combined in his last four starts.
“He was in command of all three of his pitches,” Nicholas said. “And it showed, because (the Emeralds) were off-balance all night.”
Emeralds relievers Alessio Angelucci (0-1) and Matt Irsfeld couldn’t follow Hardy’s example. Angelucci faced five batters in the sixth, walking four and giving up Profar’s double. Irsfeld gave up three hits and two walks to the five batters he faced.
Spokane’s first out of the sixth came on the 60th pitch of the inning, on Clark Murphy’s sacrifice fly to center field. Andrew Clark started the inning with a walk, and came back to draw another walk on a bases-loaded 3-2 pitch.
Spokane leads the league by a wide margin in team batting average (.278) and runs (358). … Indians outfielder Jason Kudlock left the team to rehab his injured leg in Arizona.