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Indians draw first blood in big series

As far as the Spokane Indians are concerned, the 1-7 road trip is now in the rearview mirror.

And Spokane coach Tim Hulett hopes that’s where it stays.

The Indians snapped a seven-game losing streak on Wednesday and they came out charging Thursday as Spokane topped the Boise Hawks 8-2 in the first game of a key Northwest League three-game series before 5,162 at Avista Stadium.

“It’s nice to see the guys come out and put some numbers on the (scoreboard) real quick,” Hulett said. “We hadn’t been swinging the bats good over the last seven, eight, nine, 10 games. We swung the bats good last night and it carries over tonight.”

The series against Boise is key because both teams entered the game at 28-32 overall. If first-half East Division winner Tri-City wins the second-half title, then the team with the next-best overall record qualifies for the playoffs.

Spokane (9-14 second half) took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Trever Adams, who reached base on a third-strike wild pitch, scored on another wild pitch.

The Indians pushed it to 2-0 in the second when hot-hitting Ruben Sierra, who reached on a double, scored on a triple by Nick Vickerson.

Boise (11-12) pulled even in the third when Ryan Cuneo laced a two-run double.

Spokane started to put the game out of reach in the bottom of the inning when it scored four runs on five hits. Brett Nicholas, who went 3 for 4 with three RBIs, had a run-scoring single and Sierra hit a towering three-run homer over the 395-foot sign in straightaway center.

The Indians added their final two runs in the fourth when Nicholas had a two-run double.

“I think one of the things for us – and it’s just indicative of being back home – is we played with a lot more energy tonight,” said Hulett of the Indians, who are 20-10 at home. “Guys were ready to go, ready to play, the dugout was up and that’s a good sign.”

Right-handed starting pitcher Nick Martinez (1-2) picked up his first win, and he was especially effective coming off his worst outing of the year. He went five innings, striking out six while walking three and allowing four hits.

“He was effective, but he still didn’t have his best stuff,” Hulett said. “His breaking ball was good, that was his best pitch, but he struggled with his fastball. His command wasn’t great, but he was able to pitch around some situations.” You’ve got to win when you don’t have your best stuff.”

Hulett praised Nicholas has worked his way out of a slump.

“He kind of went through that spell where he carried us the first half (of the season),” Hulett said. “Like all hitting, you have your little valleys and he’s on his way up out of the valley.”

Nicholas thanked the crowd for its support.

“It’s always great to be back in Spokane,” Nicholas said. “We play really well here. We have the best fans in the league and it’s real easy to play behind them. They really push us. That’s why we succeed so much in Spokane.”

The NWL regular season is down to 15 games.

“This series is extremely important,” Hulett said. “We’ve got to find a way to at least win two of three from these guys.”

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