Spokane Indians starter Will Ethridge entered play looking for his first win at High-A after his promotion on June 8. The Georgia native had allowed 19 earned runs in 18⅓ innings across his first four starts.
He found his groove Friday night, and got plenty of help from his offense.
Ethridge pitched six strong innings, Michael Toglia and Aaron Schunk homered and the Indians beat the Eugene Emeralds 11-4 at Avista Stadium.
“It felt good, now that I don’t have to worry about getting a win under my belt,” Ethridge said. “Now that I have one, it’s a good confidence booster for me.”
The Indians (30-34) batted around and put up seven runs in the sixth inning, including Schunk’s three-run homer. After losing the first two games of the series, the Indians have taken two straight from the Emeralds (36-27).
“(Eugene) is one of the better teams in the league and I think we’re right up there with them,” Schunk said. “So it feels good after the first two, and hopefully we can come out and win the next two and take the series from them.”
Ethridge was perfect through three innings and allowed his first hit in the fifth. Only a two-run homer in the sixth, his last inning of work, blemished his record.
“We were tired of giving up 10 runs a game to these guys,” Ethridge said. “I knew I had to go out there and have a strong outing. All I really focused on was making pitches and getting guys out.”
“I thought Ethridge did a great job,” Indians manager Scott Little said. “He gave us six innings, pitched well, he pitched in. He only missed one pitch out over the plate and that was in his last inning of work.”
“I just really worked on commanding my two-seam (fastball), pitching inside on these guys,” Ethridge said. “I know that’s where they had some loopholes in their swings. I broke four bats there in a matter of a few innings and they struggled adjusting to that.”
The Indians got on the board in the first as Isaac Collins hit a one-out single and scored from first on Toglia’s two-out double off the right-center wall.
They added to the lead in the fourth. Brenton Doyle and Schunk led off the frame with back-to-back singles and advanced on a sacrifice by Daniel Montaro, in his first game with the Indians. No. 9 hitter Christopher Navarro laced a single to center to score both for a 3-0 lead.
“He came up here as a fielding guy, and he’s getting more time because he’s playing well,” Little said of Navarro.
Toglia crushed a full-count fastball in the fifth for his 11th homer of the season.
“When he stays with his approach, he’s pretty dangerous,” Little said. “When our guys shorten their swings and don’t try to do too much, they can do a lot.”
It was smooth sailing for Ethridge until the sixth. He gave up a one-out single and after a strikeout, surrendered a no-doubt shot from Ricardo Genoves, his first of the season for Eugene.
“I just made one mistake and that was the fastball that I left over the middle of the plate,” Ethridge said. “But other than that, I was happy with every pitch that I threw tonight.”
The Indians made sure Ethridge would qualify for the “W.” They put up seven runs in the bottom half – all with two down. Niko Decolati had a two-run double, Toglia added a run-scoring single and Schunk’s big blow.
It was the second day in a row with a big inning after the Indians’ 10-run comeback Thursday.
“Yesterday was probably one of the cooler baseball games that I think most of us have been a part of, so it felt good, especially after the first two games (of the series),” Schunk said. “Putting a charge into one felt good.”
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