The Spokane Indians were forced to play from behind quite a bit this week in their six-game High-A West series against the Eugene Emeralds.
Sunday’s afternoon’s affair was no different. After allowing another big first inning, the Indians came back again to force extra innings, but didn’t have one last comeback in them in their final game of the season against the Ems.
Tyler Fitzgerald hit an RBI double in the 10th inning and Eugene edged the Indians 11-9 in a marathon that took 4 hours, 42 minutes and 423 pitches to complete at Avista Stadium.
The Indians (30-36) were down 5-0 and 8-3 before tying the game in the eighth.
The teams combined to score 113 runs in the series.
“Obviously, we have to pitch better,” Indians manager Scott Little said. “But I saw a lot of fight. I saw a lot of heart. Saw our guys not give up, battling their butts off, keeping us in games that we could have been blown out of.”
“Anytime you’re down, it definitely puts you down a little bit,” shortstop Jack Blomgren said. “But that’s where good teammates come into play and pick each other up and just keep rolling.”
With a free runner at second base to start the 10th, Fitzgerald hit a rocket to third that just got past a diving Hunter Stovall and it ended up in the left field corner for a double to plate Brett Auerbach. After and Armani Smith single, Ricardo Genoves grounded to third and Stovall fired to home to nab Fitzgerald for the first out.
Boby Johnson uncorked a wild pitch, which allowed Smith to scamper home to make it 11-9, then Carter Aldrete and Tyler Flores walked to load the bases. Johnson struck out Nolan Dempsey to end the inning, but the damage was done.
“I’m proud of the effort,” Little said. “We came back and damn near could have won the game.”
Stovall led off the eighth for the Indians with a walk and stole second. With one down, Cade Harris singled to put runners on the corners, then Blomgren found the right-center gap for a two-run double to tie it at 9-9. But Isaac Collins popped up and Niko Decolati struck out to strand Blomgren at second.
“I’m just really relaxed at the plate,” Blomgren said. “You can say I’m seeing it really well, but I think it’s more so just being relaxed, just being being relaxed as possible, helps me see the baseball.”
“Jack’s a little sparkplug man,” Little said. “He’s been playing great, plays great defense, he can steal a base. He’s been the guy at the top of the order that gets us going.”
Spokane started from behind. With the bases loaded and two down in the first, starter Helcris Olivarez thought he had strike three against Franklin Labour to end the inning. Home plate umpire Jae-Young Kim called it ball three, though, and Olivarez ended up walking Labour to force in a run.
Pitching coach Ryan Kibler came out to settle down the 20-year-old pitcher, but it didn’t help. Olivarez walked the next two batters to bring in two more runs, then a line-drive single by No. 9 hitter Nolan Dempsey scored two more – and ended Olivarez’ outing.
Three times in the series the Emeralds (38-27) put up multiple runs in the first inning, including two five-run innings.
“It definitely takes a toll on you mentally, for sure,” Blomgren said of having to come from behind so often in the series. “But you know, the best players can put out the noise, put that to the side and stay in the present moment and no matter how they’re feeling we’re still ready to perform and have the right mindset to go and compete.”
The comeback started in the bottom of the first as Blomgren led off with a walk, stole second and scored on a error on a ground ball to short.
The home team scored two more in the third. Javier Guevara singled and Harris doubled to lead off the inning. Both runners scored on groundouts and the Indians made it 5-3.
Eugene restored a five-run lead in the fourth. Stovall’s error at third base lead the way to a three-run homer by Aldrete, his fifth of the season.
The Indians rallied again in the bottom half. Brenton Doyle walked, went to third on a single by Aaron Schunk and scored on an RBI single by Stovall. Harris followed with a two-out single to plate Schunk to make it 8-5.
They kept chipping away in the fifth. Niko Decolati walked and was thrown out trying to score on an overthrow to first on a Michael Toglia single. Toglia advanced to second on the play, then scored on a double by Doyle.
It became a one-run game in the sixth. Guevara reached on a fielder’s choice, went to second on a wild pitch, moved up on a groundout and scored when Blomgren reached on a fielding error.
Auerbach doubled with one down in the eighth and Little turned to Stephen Jones. Jones hit Fitzgerald, then issued back-to-back walks to force in a run to make it 9-7.
Around the league
Vancouver 6, Hillsboro 4: Eric Rivera went 2 for 2 with two RBIs and three stolen bases and the visiting Canadians (32-34) topped the Hops (28-36). Adrian Hernandez struck out three over two innings of relief for the win.
Everett 11, Tri-City 8: Jack Larsen went 3 for 5 with a home run and two RBIs and the AquaSox (42-22) handled the visiting Dust Devils (25-40). Joseph Rosa, Patrick Frick and Cody Grosse also homered for the Frogs.
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