Chad Smith’s confidence never wavered.
The Spokane Indians’ 18-year-old outfielder, who was 3 for 4 with a pair of doubles in Spokane’s 8-5 loss to Hillsboro on Wednesday at Avista Stadium, was subject to a major slump in August. After hitting .286 in the first-half of the Northwest League season, his batting average dipped all the way down to .232 by Aug. 28.
Lately, he’s emerged from his slump. He’s hit .545 in the last three games against Hillsboro, raising his average to .248, along with posting five extra-base hits.
“After the All-Star break, guys started throwing me more curve balls after they saw I could hit a little bit. It kind of messed with my mind a little bit, to be honest” said Smtih, who admits he was focusing too much on finding inside fastballs.
“Now I’m just trying to react to what I see and it’s working for me so far.”
Indians manager Tim Hulett said they’ve adjusting aspects of his swing mechanics over the last two weeks, which have resulted in tons of production in the Indians’ series with Hillsboro.
“It’s back to where Chad was, it’s even better than where he was earlier in the year,” Hulett said. “It’s good to see. It’s a good time of year for him to get things ironed out.”
This isn’t Smith’s first slump at the plate. And, if he progresses farther in baseball, it won’t be his last. But no matter how low the valleys are, Smith doesn’t let himself get flustered.
“I still believed I could hit, I still believed I was one of the best hitters on the team,” Smith said. “It was tough for me to start falling like that, but I knew I would pick myself back up.”
Indians’ starter C.D. Pelham recovered after a rocky start, in which he walked the game’s first three batters, by only giving up one run in the first. But he didn’t settle down from there, walking two batters the next inning. He was replaced by Kevin Lenik after Justin Chigbogu and Adam Walton scored on a fielding error from first baseman Curtis Terry.
Lenik followed by giving up a single to Mark Karaviotis to score Ben Dezuzio, hitting Jason Morozowski with a pitch and giving up a single to Luke Lowery to load the bases. After Alexis Olmeda poked a single to right field to score two more runs, Spokane found itself in a six-run lead in the game’s first two innings.
The Indians scored a run in the fourth inning on an RBI single to left field from Carlos Garay and another in the fifth on an RBI single from Charles Leblanc.
Spokane’s last hurrah with two outs in the bottom of the ninth fell short with Seth Spivey’s bases clearing double.
Chad Smith was 3 for 4 with a pair of doubles for the Indians. Anderson Tejeda and Luis Terrero were 2 for 4 for the Inddian
Hops’ starter Anfernee Benitez was credited with the win, relinquishing two runs on seven hits. Pelham was handed the loss, giving up four runs on zero hits, walking six and striking out none.
Benches clear in the seventh
Both team’s benches cleared in the seventh after Hillsboro third baseman Adam Walton was plunked in the arm by Spokane relief pitcher Johan Juan.
Walton, unhappy with being hit by Juan’s pitch, threw his bat, elbow pad and batting gloves to the ground, and to slowly approached the pitching mound.
Curtis Terry was then hit by Hops’ reliever Kevin Ginkel in his second pitch of the bottom of the ninth, which prompted Indians hitting and first base coach Kenny Hook to be ejected. Hillsboro’s manager was issued a warning after the incident.
Hulett believes Terry was hit on purpose.
“I don’t think there was any doubt that was retaliation,” Hulett said.
Conversely, Hulett was unsure why Walton and the Hillsboro side took issue to their batter being hit.
“For me, it’s a 2-2 count with two outs. Pretty sure we’re not trying to him there,” he said.
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