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Indians win on hit batter in ninth inning


The bottom line for the Spokane Indians: Overall, they’re still sporting the worst record in the Northwest League. But some fine tuning in the second half has led to improvements across the board.

They’re no longer the worst team in the league at the plate. Most nights their bullpen keeps up on its end of the deal. And there hasn’t been a messy pile-up of errors in some time.

The Indians are finally close to the competition.

And on Tuesday night, regardless of how, they were on the right side of close, earning a 6-5 walk-off victory over the Everett AquaSox (37-22, 9-12 second half) in front of 5,983 fans at Avista Stadium.

It was the sixth time in seven nights the Indians have won or lost by a single run and the first time in 59 games this season Spokane (20-39, 9-12) put together a walk-off win.

“That’s how you get a walk-off,” Indians manager Tim Hulett joked after Saquan Johnson was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. “I think the guys will take it, though. We’ll take it.”

Especially considering Spokane is 0-8 in extra innings this season.

“It’s nice to get those (walk-off) wins and stay out of extras,” Hulett said. “That’s one thing about the second half – we haven’t been blown out very much. In the first half we had games we had no chance of winning, but we come to the park everyday now feeling like we have a chance to win every night.”

Despite a fairly sloppy game on both ends, Hulett’s players put their developing grit and elevated second-half confidence on display.

“I just wanted us to get the win – to do anything to get ball in play,” added Johnson, who scored the tying run in the bottom of the eighth on Chris Garia’s RBI single. “If it was close to me, I wasn’t moving. I was going to let it hit me regardless.”

Spokane starter Connor Sadzeck, still searching for his first professional win in 11 starts, turned in an improved performance. He still gave up three runs (one earned) and five hits in four innings – striking out one and walking four. Sadzeck leads the league in hit batters (12), wild pitches (11) and walks (35).

“We gave up some early, but we didn’t break,” Hulett said. “When Sadzeck starts struggling, usually he gives up a bunch. He did a good job of hanging in there tonight. We had a couple of bad plays behind him early and gave up a couple runs, but he had composure tonight.”

The Indians and AquaSox (37-22, 9-12) wrap up their five-game series tonight at Avista and Spokane hits the road to open a three-game series against the Yakima Bears on Thursday. Spokane returns home on Sunday to begin and eight-game homestand – the first three games against the Tri-City Dust Devils, followed by a five-game series against Salem-Keizer.

Clearing the bases: Former Washington State Cougar Taylor Ard was 1 for 4 at the plate and scored one run for Everett. … Gonzaga product Royce Bolinger extended his hitting streak to 15 games for Spokane.

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