After two and a half innings Thursday night, the Spokane Indians trailed the Eugene Emeralds 9-1. After six, the deficit was 11-4. But as they say, anything can happen in baseball until the final out.
In the most remarkable of comebacks, the Indians sent 15 batters to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning and scored 10 runs on four hits and seven walks against three Emeralds pitchers.
Daniel Cope delivered the big blow – a three-run double to finally take the lead – and the Indians came from seven runs down to beat the Emeralds 14-11 in the third of a six-game High-A series.
[BOX SCORE courtesy MILB.com]
The deciding half-inning took 50 minutes and 74 total pitches.
“That was probably the craziest ending and comeback I’ve ever been a part of,” shortstop Jack Blomgren said.
“The guys are definitely pretty pumped,” Cope said. “I mean, it took all of us to scrap to get to 10 runs that last inning, so we were all grinding out at-bats. Definitely a team effort there.”
The win stopped a four-game losing streak for the Indians (29-34).
At one point in the eighth the Emeralds walked five of six batters and seven of nine.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many consecutive walks,” Indians manager Scott Little said. “I watched my team give up a 10-run lead with two outs in Lancaster in 2019, but it wasn’t on walks. This was very unique for me, and I’ve been around a while.”
Trailing 11-4 in the eighth, the Indians loaded the bases with no outs on a double and two walks against Bryce Tucker. A sacrifice fly by Blomgren brought in a run, then Tucker walked Isaac Collins – his third free pass of the frame – to load them up again. Emeralds manager Dennis Pelfrey lifted Tucker and brought in Tayler Rashi.
“It was all positive (in the dugout),” Blomgren said. “We were trying to stay as positive as we could, just put good at-bats together and pass the torch on and the next guy.”
Rashi walked the first two batters he faced to force in runs and make it 11-7, then Brenton Doyle’s infield single plated a run. Rashi then walked in another run and the Indians were within two.
Kyle Datres walked to force in the sixth run of the inning, then Cope laced a 2-2 fastball to the left-center gap for a double to clear the bases, complete the comeback and take a two-run lead.
“I knew that guy has a pretty good slider, so I was kind of sitting on it the whole at-bat,” Cope said. “He threw it to me and he kind of hung it a little bit so (he) made a mistake and I took advantage of it.”
“I mean, it was a great at-bat,” Little said. “We’re sitting there and thinking ‘Man, if he could just get it in play or get in the outfield or something, we can tie the ballgame’ and then bam, he drives one out in the gap and knocks all three runs in. That was pretty exciting.”
Cade Harris flied out, but Blomgren lined a double down the right-field line and Cope scored easily to make it 14-11.
“It was awesome,” Blomgren said. “We’re coming off a rough-hitting night last couple days. I think it was great to see us come together like that and just fight and compete, because that’s what it’s gonna take.”
Eugene loaded the bases in the ninth with two down against Dugan Darnell, who warmed up the entire rally, but Ismael Munguia grounded out to end it after 4 hours, 7 minutes.
The closer hadn’t pitched since Sunday, and he wasn’t expecting a save opportunity when he got up trailing by seven.
“But as things started rolling the adrenaline started flowing, that’s for sure,” he said.
Things started poorly for the Indians and starter Mitch Kilkenny. Back-to-back two-out walks in the first inning preceded an infield RBI single by Heath Quinn to load the bases. Carter Aldrete then launched a 2-2 pitch to right center and the Emeralds led 5-0 after a half-inning.
After the disastrous inning, Little summoned reliever Trent Fennell.
The Indians got one back in the second. With two down, Cope singled, went to second when Harris walked and scored on Blomgren’s RBI single.
Fennell hit Franklin Labour to lead off the third, then Quinn clubbed one to straight left to make it 7-1. Fennell picked up a pair of strikeouts, but then walked No. 9 hitter Nolan Dempsey and Ismael Munguia’s blast to right provided a 9-1 lead.
“We’ve had a little trouble against these guys,” Little said. “You know, we’ve been pitching behind (in the count) so dadgum much. We’ve been putting everybody in such good hitting counts.”
An RBI single by Niko Decolati in the fifth chased Eugene starter Kai-Wei Teng. The 22-year-old righty from Taichung, Taiwan allowed two runs on four hits and three walks with six strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings.
Spokane loaded the bases against reliever John Russell, and consecutive walks forced in a pair of runs to make it 9-4.
Little changed pitchers again and summoned Alex Moore, who was greeted rudely. Brett Auerbach led off the sixth with a single, then Tyler Fitzgerald hit his ninth homer of the season to push the lead to 11-4.
Eugene (36-26) hit four home runs in the game and has 11 homers in the first three games of this series. Heath Quinn homered for the third night in a row and is 7 for 10 with four homers and 12 RBIs in the past three games.
“We’ve got to pitch better,” Little said. “We gotta pitch inside. We can’t be scared to go inside. I mean, they’re hitting pitches out over the plate and they’re smoking ‘em. We just got to pitch a lot better than we have been.”
Around the league
Hillsboro 7, Vancouver 4: Axel Andueza went 2 for 4 with his first homer of the season and two RBIs and the Hops (26-35) topped the visiting Canadians (31-32). Ronny Brito homered twice for the C’s and drove in four.
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