It wouldn’t be a proper finale to the Indians’ season without a walk-off performance.
Austin O’Banion waited until the 10th inning to finally get a hit, but his single came at just the right time to drive in the winning run in the Spokane Indians’ 3-2 win over the Everett AquaSox in the Northwest League regular-season finale at Avista Stadium on Sunday.
Spokane, which tied the game on Melvin Novoa’s two-out, pinch-hit double in the ninth, posted its eighth walk-off victory. It was O’Banion’s first walk-off hit.
“That was the most incredible baseball experience of my career, by far,” O’Banion said.
The Indians (23-15 second half) will face the Vancouver Canadians, who clinched a postseason spot by winning the first half of the split season and finished a game behind Spokane in the second half. Game 1 of the North Division playoff series will be Tuesday at Avista Stadium.
The Indians’ 10-inning rally began with back-to-back singles by Miguel Aparicio and Tyler Ratliff before Matt Whatley popped out. After being retired four straight times on Sunday, cleanup batter O’Banion then got his first hit of the night with a single to left field, driving in Aparicio.
The Indians were determined to not make this an easy win.
Everett’s Chris Torres put the Indians behind right out of the gate, sending a 3-2 pitch over the right-field wall. It was the second straight night that Torres led off the game with a homer.
Two batters later, Tyree Thompson left another fastball up to Onil Pena, who turned on it and homered to left field. The shot put the AquaSox (19-19) up 2-0 not even five minutes into the game.
The Indians came close to tying the score in the third after Aparicio reached base on a blooper to left field. With two outs, Whatley sent a long shot to center fielder Jansiel Rivera. Rivera leaped back and caught the hit on the warning track to end the inning.
Right-hander Joe Barlow replaced Thompson in the sixth. He retired the first batter on a grounder to second but then loaded the bases on a pair of singles and a walk. But he dug himself out of the inning with back-to-back strikeouts.
The Indians capitalized on Everett’s lone error of the night in the sixth inning when Whatley grounded into what should have been an easy out at third base. Everett’s third baseman threw the ball in the dirt, allowing Whatley to reach base safely and sending home Ratliff, who had doubled, to cut Everett’s lead to 2-1.
The Indians tied the game in the ninth on Novoa’s double that drove home pinch runner Jonah McReynolds.
Spokane outhit the AquaSox 11-9. Aparicio led the Indians with a three singles in five plate appearances.
“We couldn’t get the bats going early on,” Indians manager Matt Hagen said. “But our bullpen has been doing what it’s been doing lately … (It’s) been holding onto leads and giving us the chance to stay in games.”
Former Washington Huskies pitcher Noah Bremer (1-0) picked up the win. The righty had three strikeouts, one walk and allowed no hits in two innings of relief.
Barlow fanned five in three innings Sunday, allowing two hits and one walk.
Thompson finished with five strikeouts, seven hits, no walks and two earned runs in five innings.