PASCO – The Spokane Indians were the best team in the Northwest League North Division all summer, winning the division title in both halves.
On Wednesday, in the first game of the divisional playoff series against the Tri-City Dust Devils, the Indians got down early and tied it in the seventh inning on a pinch-hit solo home run by recently promoted Heriberto Hernandez.
The Indians had their chances late in the game, but the Dust Devils eventually pushed one across in the top of the 12th and hung on to take the opener 4-3, putting the Indians in the unenviable position of having to go to Pasco and win two straight on the road to stave off elimination.
They were successful completing the first part of the task.
On Thursday, Hernandez clubbed a two-run homer in a four-run sixth inning, and the Indians topped the Dust Devils 5-1 in Game 2 at Gesa Stadium.
The Indians’ win forces a winner-take-all Game 3 in Pasco on Friday. The Indians moved to 25-14 on the road this season.
Indians starter Teodoro Ortega allowed one run on three hits and a walk over 4 2/3 innings. Reliever Billy Layne Jr. provided 4 1/3 scoreless innings to earn the win.
The sixth-inning rally started with a couple of gifts as Kellen Strahm walked and went to second when Derwin Barreto was hit by a Starling Cordero pitch.
Both moved up on a wild pitch, then Strahm came home when catcher Jonny Homza threw it down the left-field line. Barreto went to third on the play, then scored on a second wild pitch.
After a pitching change, Blaine Crim drew a walk. One out later, Hernandez blasted his second homer since his promotion from the Arizona Rookie League last week.
Tri-City took a 1-0 lead in the first as Reinaldo Ilarraza, who doubled to lead off the game, hustled home on an infield single by Jack Stronach.
Dust Devils starter Ethan Elliott went three scoreless as the Indians couldn’t take advantage of early opportunities – they had the leadoff hitter on in each of the first three frames.
Reliever Starlin Cordero took over in the fourth. With one down, David Garcia ended up at third after Logan Driscoll missed a catch in right field. One batter later, Garcia raced home on a wild pitch to tie it.
Ortega settled down to retire 10 in a row before giving way to Layne in the fifth.
Hops tops in the South: Ryan January went 2 for 5 with three RBIs, and the Hillsboro Hops beat the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes 6-3 to advance to the Northwest League championship series. Hillsboro hosts Games 1 and 2 on Saturday and Sunday. The rest of the series will be at the North Division champ Monday through Wednesday.
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