Matt Hagen was hoping his season finale at Avista Stadium might be a worry-free evening.
But like most of Spokane’s games this season, it had Hagen concerned.
“I think I aged about five years,” Hagen said.
The Indians managed to get within a run of the Everett AquaSox in Sunday’s season finale on Sunday. They trailed 2-1 heading into the ninth inning.
But even after the Indians collected two quick outs in the last inning, Hagen still looked down at his Indians dugout from his spot on the third-base line with some hope. He knew his team had prepared for a moment like this.
“We just kind of felt it coming. It was like, something is going to happen, somebody is going to come through,” Hagen said.
Hagen put in Melvin Novoa to pinch hit for Nick Kaye, who had gone down on strikes three times Sunday. Novoa doubled on his first pitch, sending home Jonah McReynolds to tie the game.
The Indians rallied again in the tenth inning behind Austin O’Banion’s only hit of the night – a single to right that sent home Miguel Aparicio for the winning run.
Sunday’s 3-2 walk-off victory over Everett held the Indians in first place in the North Division standings to clinch the final postseason spot.
The playoffs will be a chance to see how much pressure Hagen’s young team can really handle, but he said he’s sure his Indians will be well prepared.
“Well they’ve kind of already been experiencing it for the last three months,” Hagen said.
Nearly half of Spokane’s games this season have resulted in one-run scores, and Sunday’s one-run finish seemed to be the perfect way to end such a nail-biting season.
“During the game (Sunday) I was sitting there thinking to myself, ‘There’s no way we do what we did this whole season and come up one run short. That would break my heart,’” Hagen said. “Luckily, the season came down to one run, but it came down to one run in our favor.”
The Indians will next face the Vancouver Canadians, who clinched the postseason with a North Division first-place finish in the first half, on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Avista Stadium in the first of the best-of-three series.
Games 2 and 3 will be hosted by Vancouver at Nat Bailey Stadium on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Indians have yet to win a series over the Canadians this season. After dropping five straight, the Indians finally pulled off a win over Vancouver in mid-July. Vancouver won the next two games to take the series.
The Indians showed some improvement down the stretch, splitting a four-game series in Spokane that began August 16.
The winner of the first-round series will move on to play the winner of the South Division first-round series, either the Hillsboro Hops or the Eugene Emeralds, in the championship round that will begin Friday at the South winner’s stadium.
Tai Tiedemann will start on the hill for the Indians on Tuesday. The righty has posted a 3.83 ERA and a 4-4 record in 51 2/3 innings this season.