The Tri-City Dust Devils appear to be stronger since center fielder Kyle Von Tungeln rejoined the club.
Whether Spokane Indians manager Tim Hulett feels that’s true couldn’t be determined immediately, because he wasn’t around for most of Monday night’s game.
Von Tungeln, the reigning Northwest League Player of the week, doubled home a run and scored during a three-run fifth inning as the Dust Devils (15-16) turned back the Indians 4-1 to open a three-game series at Avista Stadium.
Tri-City is 9-2 since being swept by the Indians in early July, before Von Tungeln moved down from Modesto (Calif.), a high-A team. In eight games with the Dust Devils, Von Tungeln, an NWL postseason all-star last year, is hitting .321 in the leadoff position.
Hulett was ejected by home-plate umpire Adrian Gonzalez in the third after an argument broke out that was stoked by what happened before the game.
During his seven years with the Indians, Hulett and his staff have sat on folding chairs at the side of the dugout. Gonzalez and first-base umpire Kyle McCrady put a stop to that before the game.
“It’s a little bit easier to communicate with the catcher, with the field positioning,” Indians acting manager Vinny Lopez said. “It’s just baffling to me. I’m a little short of words trying to keep this professional as I can, but there’s no reason for (the ruling).”
Indians second baseman Janluis Castro started warming up on the field in the top of the third, preparing to replace Evan Van Hoosier, who has just returned from back problems and needed to exit the game. Lopez said he didn’t know the extent of the injury.
The umpiring crew told Castro to get off the field, bringing Hulett out to question the decision.
“Unfortunately, when Hulett asked why, the umpire had a really short hook,” Lopez said. “(It was) really just unprofessional and unnecessary. Hulett was fully in the right and it’s just a matter of umpires trying to be the show when the kids are the show.”
The Indians (16-15) took a 1-0 lead in the fourth when Cam Schiller led off with a single, moved to third on Joe Jackson’s one-out double to center and scored on a wild pitch by T-C starter Sam Moll.
“I was running back for it,” Von Tungeln said of Jackson’s deep fly. “I reached out at the last second and it just hit off the tip of my glove. It’s a catch that I need to make and it’s something I work on every day.”
A fielding error by Indians shortstop Alberto Triunfel opened the door to T-C’s three-run fifth. Von Tungeln’s two-out double scored Michael Benjamin and snapped a 1-all tie.
The Dust Devils added a run in the sixth, courtesy of two errors on the same play by Spokane left fielder Saquan Johnson.
Four T-C relievers, starting with Shawn Stuart (3-1), held Spokane to one hit over the final five innings.
“You look up there and we only gave up one run,” Von Tungeln said. “Our pitching staff did a phenomenal job … and the timely hitting was great.”
Third baseman Roberto Duran was sent down to the Arizona Rookie League after hitting .097 (3 for 31) in 12 games for the Indians. … Hillsboro and Eugene have already been eliminated from the South Division first-half race.