C.J. Hinojosa noticed during his first batting practice at Avista Stadium that the ball tends to sail over the short porch in right field.
After already taking advantage of the gap in left-center in the first inning Wednesday, Hinojosa visited the friendly spot in right during the fourth inning.
Hinojosa’s two-out, two-run homer to right field gave the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes a 6-0 lead that developed into a 6-1 win over the Spokane Indians to open a five-game Northwest League series.
“I hit a couple out (during BP), one over the train,” said the first-year pro from the University of Texas. “Hey, the ball flies a little bit that way. So with two strikes, fastball away, I tried to put a good swing on it and it just carried out. As soon as I hit it I knew it had a chance to go out because I stayed on it and backspun it.”
Hinojosa also had an RBI double to left-center after Steven Duggar walked to open the game. Hinojosa scored on Miguel Gomez’s single to center, giving the Volcanoes a 2-0 lead three batters in to the game.
“We have a great leadoff guy (Duggar) that gets on, and that allows me to go up there and be comfortable and look for pitches that I can drive,” Hinojosa said. “As of late, I’ve been hitting them and not missing those pitches.”
S-K, ranked second in the league in team batting average and earned-run average, improved to 9-5 for the second half of the NWL season. The Indians, who had won two consecutive games, fell to 6-8.
The Volcanoes struck for eight hits and six runs – four earned – in four innings off Indians starter Cole Wiper (0-4).
“He just had trouble,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said of Wiper, the Bellevue native who attended the University of Oregon. “He got behind a lot. That puts you behind the 8-ball when you’re facing a team that’s swinging the bats as well as these guys are.”
Duggar (.280) finished 2 for 4 with three runs and reached base his first four times. No. 5 hitter Scott Price (.355) finished 4 for 4 with a third-inning RBI single after Indians third baseman Ti’Quan Forbes extended the inning with a throwing error.
“He kind of had that play last night,” Hulett said of Forbes. “He didn’t really set his feet very well. And today he didn’t really get his legs under him again and made the high throw. The thing lately is that whenever we make an error that guy scores.”
S-K pitchers Michael Connolly (4-1), E.J. Encinosa and Armando Paniagua combined for 12 strikeouts. Paniagua struck out the side in the ninth.
Spokane’s bright spot was the pitching of usual starter Luke Lanphere, who held S-K to four hits in five scoreless innings.
“He had a great outing tonight, especially against this team right here,” Hulett said. “You can tell that these guys are playing good baseball and the top of their lineup is really swinging the bat.”
The Volcanoes and Indians have split six games this season.
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