The Spokane Indians employed a gremlin at second base Tuesday night to claw their way into the Northwest League championship series.
Two bad-hop hits at second base turned the tide in Spokane’s 6-1 win over the Yakima Bears and a sweep of the best-of-3 East divisional series.
The big hit, Michael Olt’s two-run double during Spokane’s four-run first inning, came on a solidly hit grounder that rocketed over the head of second baseman Mike Freeman.
“That was a crazy hop, but that’s baseball,” Olt said as the Indians celebrated on their Avista Stadium field what will be their ninth trip to the championship series. “Sometimes the hops go your way.”
“I think they owed us one, because in Yakima the same thing happened to us – the ball bounced over our head,” said Spokane’s Tim Hulett, the NWL’s manager of the year.
On the other bad hop, which Freeman stabbed with a leap, Jared Hoying beat the throw to first base and Jurickson Profar motored around from second for a 5-1 lead.
“You never know with that kid (Profar),” Olt said. “He kind of just flies around the bases … and that’s what we needed.”
The Indians’ final home game of 2010 will be at 6:30 p.m. Thursday to open a best-of-3 set against Everett, the West divisional winner. Everett swept its series with Vancouver, clinching with Tuesday’s 3-1 win at home.
Game 2 will be Saturday night in Everett. Game 3, if needed, will be Sunday night in Everett.
The Indians, East Division first-half champions, outscored East second-half champion Yakima 11-2 during the two games despite being outhit 15-10.
“We probably had a lot more walks than they did and we executed our offense,” Hulett said. “It’s not how many hits you get, it’s how many big hits.”
Spokane drew 16 walks during the two games, six more than Yakima. The Bears left 21 runners on base during the series and finished 3 for 20 with runners in scoring position.
The Indians used patience at the plate against Bears starter Enrique Burgos, who led the NWL with 54 walks this season. Burgos walked seven in 4 1/3 innings, and three of those runners scored.
Burgos also hit Spokane’s first batter of the game, Ryan Strausborger, with a pitch near his shoulder. Hoying followed with a walk to set up Olt’s seeing-eye double.
Josh Richmond drilled a 3-2 pitch into the left-field corner to score Olt. Richmond scored when Santiago Chirino’s two-out grounder hit the first-base bag.
The Indians had just one hit after the first inning, Hoying’s infield single.
That was good enough for Indians starter and winner Randol Rojas, who scattered six hits in six innings, struck out four and walked one.
“(Rojas) might bend, but he never breaks and never gives in,” Hulett said. “He had a good breaking ball and a great change-up.”
Spokane relievers Tim Steggall, Jimmy Reyes and Colby Killian capped the win with one scoreless inning apiece. Indians relievers pitched 8 1/3 scoreless innings during the sweep.
Spokane first baseman/designated hitter Clark Murphy (injured ribs) won’t play in the postseason. Murphy, who hit .319 during his second season with the Indians, hasn’t batted since Aug. 25. He served as first-base coach Tuesday. … Thursday’s projected starter for Spokane is right-hander Nicholas McBride (2-5, 4.24).