The very nature of the short-season schedule in the Northwest League has produced an interesting championship matchup – and series schedule.
The Spokane Indians lost their first 12 road games this season on their way to a last-place finish in the first half, albeit a mere four games out. The Eugene Emeralds had the worst overall record in the league this season.
Yet those teams face each other in the championship series this week, with all five games scheduled for PK Park in Eugene, because of the Spokane County Interstate Fair dominating the fairgrounds.
The Indians won the North Division second half by one game, then knocked off first-half champ Everett 2-1 in the division series.
In the South, the Hillsboro Hops dominated, winning the first half by three games and second half by 10. By league rules in that instance, the second-place team in the second half was awarded a playoff spot.
The Emeralds, by virtue of a 17-21 record, were the fortunate ones and upset the Hops in two games to reach the championship series.
The Indians are led by league Most Valuable Player Curtis Terry, who led the circuit in home runs (15), runs batted in (60) and total bases (149). The 1B/DH hit .337 with a .434 on-base percentage, both second to his teammate, infielder Diosbel Arias. The Cuban hit .366 with a .451 OBP and was second in RBIs with 44.
On the mound, Jake Latz (6-2, 3.93), Yerry Rodriguez (3-0, 1.82 in four starts) and Chi Chi Gonzalez started division-series games for the Indians.
Gonzalez is on a minor league rehab assignment from the Texas Rangers. He threw five perfect innings in his only regular-season start to clinch the second-half title, then provided five more shutout innings in his playoff start on Thursday, the deciding game of the division series.
Eugene’s Faustino Carrera led the league in ERA at 2.54 in 13 games and nine starts. He went 5-2 over 67 1/3 innings with 58 strikeouts. Emeralds outfielder Fernando Kelli led the league in stolen bases with 28.