Few things in baseball are more exciting than the walk-off victory – which the Spokane Indians were on the brink of on Friday evening.
But, as the saying goes, almost only counts in horseshoes, and the Indians were without a ringer in this one.
So the Indians, who came into their game against first-half East Division-champion Yakima on Friday night with a winning record for the first time this season, suffered a disappointing 8-6 setback to the Bears in 11 innings in Northwest League action in front of 4,798 fans at Avista Stadium.
“We haven’t even had a walk-off situation let alone have the walk-off happen,” Spokane manager Tim Hulett said. “It really felt like we were going to get it tonight. We were in position to get it done we just didn’t.”
“We’ve had plenty of losses and plenty of way-to-play games,” he added. “We need to get past this and win these games. We’re going to have close games and we need to be on the other side of it.”
After the Bears (3-1) scored a pair of runs in the top of the ninth, Spokane (2-2) trailed 6-4 heading into the bottom of the inning.
Yakima reliever RJ Hively, who replaced Jose Jose in the ninth, walked leadoff hitter Preston Beck, gave up a single to Gabriel Roa and walked Patrick Cantwell to load the bases with no outs for Spokane.
Second baseman Cam Schiller reached on a force attempt when Yakima shortstop Kevin Medrano made a fielding error, allowing the tying runs to score – still with no outs. Then, in what has been typical fashion for Spokane this season, they blew it.
Cantwell was thrown out at home on a fielder’s choice, Ryan Rua lined out to right and Barrett Serrato grounded out to short.
“A couple things go different and we had that,” Hulett said. “We had a lot of opportunities, but we had trouble sacrificing and we bunted into coverage a couple times which let them get our lead runner.”
The Indians had another scoring opportunity in the tenth, and put four runners on base, but couldn’t send anyone across the plate. Then the Bears finally put together a pair of runs in the top of the 11th, and Spokane didn’t have any more answers.
“They did a good job defending when we bunted and that kind of hurt us in the late innings, because we could have had guys on third ready to score with a chance to win the game,” Hulett said. “I hope they don’t get too frustrated by tonight. I liked what I saw for a lot of tonight’s game – especially early on.”
After two hitless innings, the Indians finally broke a scoreless tie in the third when Roa – whose .295 batting average leads Spokane – sent Joe Maloney across the plate on a sacrifice fly to center.
The Indians carried the 1-0 lead into the fifth, when Yakima’s Michael Lang knotted the score on a fielder’s choice, and after Spokane responded with a run in the sixth on Rua’s third home run of the season, the Bears added a pair of runs for a 3-2 lead in the top of the seventh.
Spokane tied the score at 3 in the bottom of the inning, and each team scored once in the eighth and twice in the ninth.
After finishing 12-26 and last in the first half of the NWL season, Hulett is pleased overall with what his team is doing so far in the second half.
“It’s been good, guys have been playing well for a little over a week now and they’ve done really well on the road,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of close games lately and tonight we did a much better job hitting with guys in scoring position. It was pretty good.
“But it still needs to be much better.”