Talk about holding a crowd’s attention until the final play.
A perfect one-hop throw from the outfield lifted Boise back into first place in the Northwest League North Division and snuffed out Spokane’s attempt at a 13th come-from-behind victory Monday night at Seafirst Stadium.
With the tying run at second and two outs in the ninth, Spokane catcher Dave Ullery poked a single to left. But Cesar Geronimo’s textbook throw nailed Indians pinch runner Francisco Bautista by 10 feet at home to preserve the Hawks’ dramatic 2-1 victory.
Although the Indians have posted a dozen comeback wins, they’ve also dropped a handful of tight finishes. Three losses in the past four games have been by one run.
The midway mark of the season is still more than a week away, but the rubber game between the NWL’s top two teams had a playoff atmosphere before a crowd of 3,739.
“We’ve been down in our last (four games), but we’ve battled back and that shows resiliency,” Spokane manager Jeff Garber said. “At the end we were trying to be aggressive, put the pressure on them, and make them make a play. And you have to give them credit because they did.”
After two offensive-filled games, Spokane and perennial league-power Boise settled into a pitching duel.
Spokane starter Justin Pedersen was pulled after four innings and 81 pitches despite allowing no hits. He was frequently pitching from behind and had worked too close to his 85-pitch limit, Garber said.
Reliever Francis Scott Key allowed lead-off doubles in both the fifth and sixth innings, and both Hawks eventually scored. Ariel Delgado opened the Hawks’ fifth with a double and scored on Adam Legget’s groundout to second, tying the score at 1.
Boise took the lead the next inning when Jason Dewey came home on an run-scoring single by Paxton Stewart.
“When you have the two best teams in the league - two evenly matched teams - all three games are exactly what you’d expect,” Boise manager Tom Kotchman said.
“(Spokane) puts some impressive athletic specimans on the field. I can see why they have so many guys in the hitting and pitching stats (leaders). They’ve got a very good blend of speed, power … a lot of things.”
Hawks right-hander Matt Wise improved his league-leading record to 5-0. He scattered three hits through eight innings, striking out six and working out of trouble twice.
“That’s our best pitched game of the year,” Kotchman said. Boise raised its record to 20-7 while Spokane slipped to 19-8. Similar to Sunday, the Indians went down to their last out in the ninth inning before threatening. Actually Dave Willis fell behind 0-2 before just about tying the score with his final swing.
He belted a double off the right-center wall. Pinch hitter Cade Griffis followed with a walk, bringing Ullery to the plate for his last at-bat as an Indian for the final drama.
Kotchman replaced reliever Hector Rodriguez with Greg Jones, saying he was going with a hunch. As it turned out, it almost backfired.
Ullery has been called up to the parent Kansas City Royals’ Midwest League team, the Lansing (Mich.) Lugnuts. … Spokane and Boise will face off nine more times before season’s end, and fans won’t have to wait long for the next series. Boise visits Spokane for three games beginning July 29. The teams will go to Boise for three more games to open August.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
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