For the second straight night the fourth inning proved pivotal.
This time the Spokane Indians were the beneficiaries.
The Indians broke out of a 0-for-9 stretch with runners in scoring position by scoring six runs with two outs in the fourth as Spokane rewarded a hearty, rain-soaked crowd of 6,209 Saturday with a 7-2 victory over the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in a Northwest League game at Avista Stadium.
After a 40-minute rain delay, the Indians (1-1) got exactly what they needed – solid pitching, timely hitting and consistent defense.
What particularly pleased Spokane manager Tim Hulett was the hitting after the Indians struggled mightily in the season opener.
It appeared S-K starting pitcher Brandon Allen was going to get out of the fourth quickly when he retired the first two batters. But he proceeded to walk the next batter, Guillermo Pimental.
Then a pair of Indians came up clutch. Carson Vitale, who fell behind 0-2, worked the count full before delivering a run-scoring single, giving the Indians their first lead of the 2011 season. That chased Allen.
Braxton Lane, batting ninth, had an excuse-me check swing on the first pitch, but he beat it out for an RBI hit.
The Indians executed a hit-and-run perfectly when Vitale took off for second, pulling the shortstop out of position as Rougned Odor singled just past his glove as he ranged to his left.
Lane scored on a wild pitch to extend the lead to 4-0. But the Indians weren’t through. Hanser Alberto knocked in the final two runs in the inning with a double.
Lane was all smiles after three hits in his first start.
“Everybody executed well,” said Lane, a seventh-round pick in 2009 out of Tyrone, Ga. “It was a great team win.”
Lane said he was fooled on the first pitch on the check swing.
“With a new guy coming in (relief pitcher) you’re looking for a fastball,” Lane said. “So I was ready to hit. I tried to stop it (the swing), got a little piece of it and took off running.”
Lane said the Indians didn’t put their best foot forward Friday.
“It wasn’t a good example of Spokane Indians baseball,” Lane said. “We put things together and hopefully we can keep this up for the rest of the season.”
Hulett praised Vitale and Lane for their at-bats in the fourth.
“Carson did a great job and battled,” Hulett said. “He had some good hacks early and laid off some tough pitches later. Then he got a fastball in the right spot. For Braxton it wasn’t the greatest swing but he can really run. That’s not how you want to get your first hit, but I think it relaxed him a little bit. He got two more hits after that and looked real good at the plate. We were kind of wild swinging last night but they did a good job situationally tonight.”
Spokane starter Victor Payano battled out of jams in the first and second innings and settled down for an effective outing.
“He got behind a few hitters and lost it for a little bit, but then he found it again,” Hulett said.
Closer Matt West was impressive in the ninth, getting the Volcanoes (1-1) in order. Of his 11 pitches, 10 were 93 mph or faster. He reached 97 on his second pitch.
“I think he was a little stiff tonight,” Hulett said, grinning. “Wait until he gets warm.”
A Father’s Day matinee is featured today, beginning at 3:30.