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Indians battle Emeralds, but lose ninth in row

Spokane Indians (S-R)
Spokane Indians (S-R)

Certainly there’s a bottom line when it comes to losing, but it was the silver lining that stuck out on Saturday night.

The Spokane Indians, losers of nine straight Northwest League contests after falling 3-1 in 11 innings to the Eugene Emeralds in front of 5,504 fans at Avista Stadium, tied the 1962 and 2006 Spokane teams’ franchise-high losing streaks.

However, this one was different. The crowd was more energized, and towards the end of the game actually got louder in encouragement. And the Indians – they looked great on defense and they looked strong and in control on the mound.

Once again, they just couldn’t send runners in scoring position home.

“At least I feel like we’re showing signs of improvement, especially tonight,” Indians second baseman Cam Schiller said. “Obviously, we’re not trying to lose. We’re trying to come out every game and add more hustle and fix things. We’d like to get some lucky breaks that we’re just not getting.”

Perhaps those breaks will come for Spokane in the second half of the NWL season.

As a Class A short-season league, the NWL playoffs are split into the first and second halves of the season (38 games each). Following the 76-game slate, both playoff series – between the top two teams in each division from each half of the season – will be played in early September.

With the loss on Saturday night, Spokane (8-21) – which is in last place in the East Division – cannot mathematically make the first-half playoff cut. From the West Division, Salem-Keizer was also eliminated from first-half contention.

“The silver lining is in short season we have those two halves to the season,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said. “Hopefully, we can get on a little bit of a roll here before we start the second half. You don’t want to have to figure it out right when it starts, you want to go into it with a little bit of momentum – as much as you can gather.

“We need to start winning games, and I believe we will. It’s going to come, and when it does I think the floodgates are going to open and you’re going to see a different team.”

On Saturday, the Indians already looked somewhat like a different team.

Starting pitcher Connor Sadzeck threw six innings, striking out four, walking two and allowing just one hit.

“One of his better starts,” Hulett said of Sadzeck, who is 0-3 this season. “He really had great command over his fastball and went right after hitters. And we did a good job defensively behind him tonight.”

There were also pockets of offense, as Spokane carried a 1-0 lead into the seventh thanks to designated hitter Brandon Garcia’s home run to right field. Prior to the blast, Garcia was 0 for 10 since joining Spokane this month.

The Emeralds (17-11) tied the game with a run in the seventh and scored twice in the top of the 11th for the win.

“We’ve gone on this streak of losses, and guys haven’t always played the best baseball,” said Hulett, “but tonight I liked our game. You can live with losses like that because you know in the end you’re going to start winning – if you keep playing like that.”