The Everett AquaSox had feasted off Nicholas McBride’s pitching this Northwest League season.
McBride pitched five scoreless innings Thursday night as the Spokane Indians moved within one win of their ninth NWL title with a 4-1 victory over Everett at Avista Stadium.
The best-of-3 championship series moves to Everett for Game 2 on Saturday night. If Spokane doesn’t clinch the title then, it will have another chance Sunday night at Everett.
Everett had the NWL’s best regular-season record, with Thursday starter Chris Sorce picking up eight wins, including two against Spokane.
Both times McBride faced the AquaSox, his night ended early. McBride allowed 11 earned runs in 72/3 innings against Everett, including a July 11 loss in which he gave up seven earned runs in four innings.
But Spokane’s coaches sat down with McBride in mid-August and changed the course of his season.
“We had a conversation with him about how to set hitters up and keep the ball down in the zone,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said. “He had a tendency to be flat with his fastball and when it was up in the zone, that’s when he would get hit.”
The result of that talk has been remarkable. In McBride’s final five starts, he allowed two earned runs in 27 innings (0.67 earned-run average).
“Now I can go into the offseason really looking forward to next year,” said McBride, who was 2-5 during the regular season. “I just have to keep things consistent like I’ve been doing.”
Sorce, who defeated the Indians on June 26 and July 12, recorded a season-high 10 strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings Thursday but trailed 3-0 when he left.
Shortstop Jurickson Profar had the big hit against Sorce, a two-out, two-run double off the left-field wall in the fourth inning. The opposite-field shot scored No. 7 hitter Santiago Chirino, whose infield single had glanced off Sorce’s hand, and No. 8 hitter Jake Skole, who had grounded a single to center.
“(Sorce) pitched well against us again,” Hulett said. “Our big hitters’ swings were a little too big, but our guys with the smaller swings were doing all the damage.”
“Profar’s double gave the whole team a boost and helped to carry us all the way,” McBride said.
Jorge Marban, who relieved McBride in the sixth, walked the first two batters he faced and had a 3-2 count against Hawkins Gebbers before working out of the jam.
Ben Rowen, with a 1.09 ERA during the regular season, recorded two outs in the seventh and gave way to Ryan Rodebaugh.
Gebbers, of Brewster, Wash., reached Rodebaugh for a one-out RBI double in the eighth, but the hard-throwing right-hander stranded Gebbers at second. Zach Osborne polished off the AquaSox in the ninth.
“(Indians pitchers) did their job and threw strikes,” said Everett manager Jose Moreno. “We were too anxious and maybe swung at some pitches out of the strike zone. We helped them.”
Spokane is 8 for 8 in NWL championship series. Everett’s lone title came in 1985.
Tim Stanford (6-0, 1.66 ERA) is Spokane’s projected starter Saturday against Jandy Sena (0-1, 1.80).
“He’s earned the right to throw the next game and we’re excited about having him out there,” Hulett said.