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Indians’ 11-run first inning holds up

After making his first five appearances with the Spokane Indians as a relief pitcher, Will Lamb hardly looked out of place in his new role as a starter Sunday night.

The Texas Rangers’ second-round 2011 draft pick out of Clemson University worked three strong innings in his professional starting debut, striking out four and allowing just one run and one hit as the Indians erupted for 11 first-inning runs and went on to bounce the visiting Vancouver Canadians 12-8 in a Northwest League matchup witnessed by an Avista Stadium crowd of 4,645.

“It was fun,” said Lamb, a 6-foot-6 lefthander, who was a part-time starting pitcher and centerfielder at Clemson. “But I had started some in college so I knew how to prepare, and I knew the mentality I needed.

“I was a little jittery to start, but after that first out, I kind of settled down.”

Much to the satisfaction of Indians manager Tim Hulett, who explained the early season plan was to let Lamb build up some innings and some endurance before moving him into the starting rotation, where he is expected to stay.

“I thought he did an outstanding job,” Hulett said of Lamb, who retired the first six batters he faced. “I really like the things he does on the mound. He’s got great stuff and his velocity was really up tonight.

“He does a good job of mixing his pitches, and he really knows how to set hitters up.”

Lamb’s starting debut, which was too short to qualify for the win, was made less stressful by the Indians’ big first inning in which they sent 15 batters to the plate. The first five of those scored as part of an eight-hit barrage that included two-run doubles by Trever Adams and Zach Cone, and a two-run single by Edwin Garcia.

“We really came out swinging the bats and hitting line drives all over the field – singles, doubles, running the bases hard and stealing bases – just playing good quality baseball,” Hulett said of his team’s flashy start. “It was one of those innings where everything went our way.”

“We knew we were kind of on the hot seat after only getting three hits last night,” added Cone, who finished with three hits and three RBIs. “So we came out much more aggressive, and once one guy got started the whole team followed suit.”

Eight of Spokane’s nine starters had hits in the game, with Adams matching Cone’s team-high RBI total.

Spokane’s ultra-productive first inning also included some drama, brought on by a called third strike on Guillermo Pimental, who argued the call with home plate umpire Ed Leopold. While demonstratively voicing his disapproval to Leopold, Pimental suddenly turned his attention to Canadians catcher Pierce Rankin and ended up removing his helmet and raising his bat in a gesture that earned him an ejection and brought players from both dugouts onto the field.

No punches were thrown. But after Lamb drilled Rankin with the first pitch he threw in the top of the third, it seemed obvious the incident was not immediately forgotten.

After spitting the first four games, the two teams will decide the winner of their five-game series this afternoon in a rare 3:30 matchup at Avista Stadium.