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Spokane Indians earn first win of season on Star Wars night

UPDATED: Sat., June 17, 2017

Darth Vader made his way to the center of the field with his loyal stormtroopers following close behind. He took the mound with the baseball to deliver the first pitch of the night.

Vader used the Force and flicked the ball to home plate in lightning speed, nearly knocking Clay Middleton to the ground with the catch.

“I closed my eyes. I don’t know if it was a fastball or a seam,” the 23-year-old catcher laughed.

The Indians certainly used the Force to their advantage on Saturday night as Austin O’Banion homered in the sixth inning and Spokane edged the Boise Hawks 3-2 for its first Northwest League win of the season.

It wasn’t an easy win. The Hawks tied the score twice before Spokane took the lead for good in the sixth inning.

It was the kind of nail-biter first-year manager Matt Hagen generally enjoys to watch, but not from the Indians dugout.

“Games come down to a play here or there, and pitch here or there, a swing here or there, and tonight just was one of those nights,” Hagen said. “I would have liked for it to have been a … little less nerve-wracking. It came all the way down to the very end. But we’ll take what we can get.”

The Indians (1-1) almost scored in the first inning when Spokane’s Andretty Cordero launched a line a drive over third base. Miguel Aparicio took off from second, but he nearly lost his footing rounding third base and was thrown out at home.

Spokane got rolling again in the second, beginning with Kole Enright’s long fly to center field which Boise center fielder Steve Linkous misplayed, allowing Enright a generously scored triple.

Yohel Pozo followed with a line-drive single to right field, giving Enright an easy jog to home for Spokane’s first run of the night.

The Hawks (1-1) fought back and tied the score at 1-1 in the fourth inning after Christian Correa, who went hitless in his first five at-bats in the series, smacked an RBI single to center field. The Indians answered with another run at the bottom of the frame, as Boise’s right-hander Rico Garcia issued a pair of walks before giving up an RBI single to Kobie Taylor.

The Hawks maintained a one-run dance with the Indians in the sixth inning. Boise’s Avery Romero led off the inning with a long line drive on the first pitch that cleared the left-field wall and tied the score at 2-2.

The Indians regrouped and Spokane right fielder Austin O’Banion put the Indians on top for good with a solo homer to left field with two outs in the bottom of the sixth.

“Right before my at-bat my hitting coach said that the starter had a pretty good changeup, so he said move up in the box, look for a pitch you can handle, put a good swing on it,” O’Banion said. “And that’s exactly what I did.”

Seven Indians recorded a hit on Saturday. Second baseman Enright was 0 for 2, but got on base twice – off a walk and a fielding error – and scored two of Spokane’s runs.

Spokane starter Tyler Phillips allowed two runs on seven hits and a walk with three strikeouts. Reliever Joe Barlow (1-0) picked up the win with 1 2/3 hitless, scoreless innings.

Right-hander Kyle Cedotal (0-1) took the loss for Boise.

Garcia, who started for the Hawks on Saturday, missed out on his first win of his professional career. This is Garcia’s second season in the minor leagues and the right-hander has yet to record his first win since the Colorado Rockies shipped him to Boise last season.

Last year, Garcia posted an 0-4 record in eight starts and 16 total game appearances for the Hawks. He struck out 35 batters and recorded a 6.37 ERA in 35 1/3 innings.

The Indians face the Hawks in a doubleheader on Sunday after Thursday’s season opener was postponed because of rain. Both games will be only seven innings long. The first game will begin at 3:30 p.m. The second game will begin 30 minutes after the first game ends.

For those who missed out on Star Wars night, the Indians will be hosting Luke I Am Your Father’s Day in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader. Fans can again come to the park dressed up as their favorite characters for Star Wars.

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