As a college senior at Samford University, baseball wasn’t something over which Joseph Burns was going to lose his hair. He couldn’t.
Or, rather, he wouldn’t.
“My coach at Samford’s wife battled cancer and when I told him I wanted to grow out my hair and donate it (to Locks of Love) he told me once I hit 10 inches I had to cut it,” said Burns, who celebrated his 23rd birthday on Friday by earning his first professional win in Spokane’s 6-5 come-from-behind Northwest League baseball victory over Boise in front of a sold-out crowd of 6,913 at Avista Stadium.
“When the season started it was already at 9 inches,” explained the Indians’ lone left-hander. “But I went half the season without giving up an earned run and nobody wanted me to cut it anymore.”
Well, not nobody.
“I liked it only because it was a distraction. By the time (visiting batters) got done laughing about the hair I was usually out of the inning,” Burns said. “My mom officially made me cut it – she said it looked terrible. Which it did.”
Nothing about Burns’ game – or Spokane’s – looked terrible on Friday.
Though their pitching wasn’t as sharp as it has previously been, and three defensive errors were committed, the Indians (18-30 overall, 6-4 second half) came up with a dozen hits in an excellent night at the plate – including an eighth-inning rally that earned Spokane and Burns the win.
Burns (1-1) pitched the eighth inning, striking out two of the three batters he faced.
“There was a game real early in the season where I had a chance to get a win going into 13 innings and a position player blew it so it was kind of heartbreaking,” said Burns. “So I’m glad to finally get one, and especially tonight.”
Trailing 5-3 heading into the eighth, Spokane’s Joe Maloney led the inning off with his fourth home run of the season and second in a 10-game stretch.
Maloney entered Friday’s game having hit .368 in his past 10 games, with six doubles, nine runs, eight RBIs and eight walks. On Friday, he was 1 for 2 with a pair of walks and an RBI.
“Our offense has turned on,” Burns said. “Nobody wanted to say it, but when we were only getting one or two hits a game and the other team would score a couple runs, we’d all just kind of put our heads down a little – if we’re averaging five hits a week there’s no way to overcome five runs from the other team in any game.”
“We’re coming together and playing much better, and Maloney is sort of a prime example of that.”
Infielder Smerling Lantigua followed Maloney’s homer with a single to center. After a pitching change, Gabriel Roa singled to left to put two on with two out for Cam Schiller. Schiller tagged a fastball to center for a two-run double and the lead. driving in the go-ahead run before Royce Bolinger struck out to end the inning.
“It’s nice to have an interview after a win,” Indians manager Tim Hulett joked. “We’ve really started swinging the bats like I knew we could and it’s even more satisfying because these are the guys we’ve had all season – the guys who had a terrible time in the first half and now they’re showing what we’re capable of.”
Clearing the bases
Outfielder Hirotoshi Onaka was called up on Friday to the Rangers’ Class A affiliate – the Hickory (N.C.) Crawdads of the South Atlantic League. – on Friday, joining former Spokane teammates Jose Monegro, Taylor Dennis and Nick Urbanus, who were called up earlier this season. … Tonight’s game against Boise at Avista Stadium is sold out. Tickets are still available for Sunday’s series finale against the Hawks.