The first 14 games of the 2010 season might have been a stretch Spokane Indians outfielder Jared Hoying would like to forget.
Through the Fourth of July weekend, Hoying was batting .212 with no home runs and just six runs batted in.
Nearly a month later, it’s a different season for Hoying and the Indians. Much like Spokane’s fast rise from the cellar to the top team in the Northwest League East Division, Hoying turned his season around. After a 3-for-4 performance in Spokane’s 6-2 win over Yakima (15-20) at Avista Stadium on Friday, Hoying has become the team leader in home runs (four) and RBIs (19), and raised his batting average 76 points to .288.
Spokane (19-15) has turned around its season after a 1-7 start and will clinch a first-half playoff berth by continuing to win over the next three days. The Indians are one-half game ahead of Boise (19-16) as the Hawks prepare to play three games at Yakima while Spokane hosts Tri-City for four, starting tonight.
Tying Boise for first place when the 38-game first half ends Monday won’t help the Indians, because the Hawks own the tiebreaker.
Helping the cause of starting pitcher Chad Bell against Yakima, Hoying tallied Spokane’s first hit against the Bears’ Miles Reagan (1-4) in the third inning, a two-run home run to give the Indians a 3-1 lead. He later added a single and a run in the fifth inning and his third hit of the game in the seventh.
“Getting our first run without a hit was big – we were just playing good baseball,” Hoying said. “I thought I’d try and break it up a little bit and get a hit, but especially a two-run home run helps out a bunch and we just battled. When we’re not swinging the bats hot, we’re just trying anything to battle and get some runs across.”
The Indians did just that, tallying six runs on just six hits, with two of those hits coming in the bottom of the eighth inning with the Indians already holding a 5-2 lead. Hoying finished with three of Spokane’stheir four hits through seven innings.
Yet the Indians managed to manufacture runs when they needed to, taking advantage of six walks by Yakima pitchers.
Taking the lead after the third inning seemed to do wonders for Bell (2-0), who struggled through the first three innings against the Bears.
After allowing a run on one hit with four walks through three frames, Bell found his groove, allowing just one more run on two hits and completing seven innings, a high for Spokane pitchers this year.
“Early I was a pressing a little bit, trying to do too much,” said Bell, who finished his outing by striking out four of the last seven batters he faced to move up to a tie for second place in NWL strikeouts. “I finally just gave it over to my defense and let them start making plays.”
In his seven starts, Bell has helped the Indians to wins in six of those games, despite only being credited with a pair of wins this season.