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Aaron Schunk, Kyle Datres homer in first, Spokane Indians beat Tri-City Dust Devils

UPDATED: Thu., June 3, 2021

Spokane Indians manager Scott Little had some fairly pointed words about his offense after Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to Tri-City in the series opener, when the Indians managed just four hits and went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position.

“We did a lot of very bad things offensively (Tuesday),” he said. “We had multiple chances to get guys in from third, we couldn’t get it done. We had some walks, but we ran into some outs.

“We never got it going. Never gave ourselves a chance. We had opportunities early to kind of take some of the pressure off (pitcher) Nick (Bush) but we didn’t come through. There were some very poor at-bats.”

The message got through to his hitters. In a big way.

The Indians batted around in the first inning, clubbing two home runs in the frame, and downed the Dust Devils 9-1 in the second of a six-game High-A West series at Avista Stadium on Wednesday.

[BOX SCORE courtesy MiLB.com]

Aaron Schunk lined a two-run home run and Kyle Datres added a three-run shot before there were two outs in the first.

“We had a couple of good moments early on, didn’t we?” Indians manager Scott Little asked rhetorically. 

Spokane (10-16) sent eight hitters in the second and scored two more runs, courtesy of an RBI double by Schunk and bases-loaded walk by Luke Morgan, making his High-A debut.

Catcher Willie MacIver, who added an RBI double in the eighth inning, was enthused about the offense. 

“I was really happy with how we came out focused, ready to hit, put last night’s game behind us and punch you in the face early.”

The beneficiary of all the offense was Indians left-handed starter Helcris Olivarez. The Colorado Rockies’ No. 7 prospect had a tough start to the season, losing his first four games. But the last time out on May 21 he had his best outing, allowing no earned runs over four innings, and he was dominant on Wednesday.

Olivarez (1-4) struck out seven over five-plus innings, allowing two hits and two walks – with one of each at the start of the sixth inning before he was lifted. He hit 97 mph regularly in the middle innings, though in the sixth his fastball was in the 94-95 range.

“Helcris kept getting better and better,” Little said. “He kind of ran out pitches there, we were extending him. But he had plenty going in. But it was a good outing, he got his first ‘W.’”

“Fantastic,” MacIver said of his battery-mate. “He competed well. I’d still like to see him in the zone a little more, but you know when you’re bringing 96 to 99, I can’t be too picky.”

Tri-City (9-17) starter Hector Yan hit Indians leadoff hitter Isaac Collins, then Schunk poked the first pitch he saw down the right-field line and over the short fence just to the left of the 296-foot sign for a 2-0 lead five pitches into the game.

“I thought it might have been a double,” Schunk said of the liner, “so I was kind of booking it. But knew I got it pretty square and was able to sneak it out.”

“He’s gonna be a good hitter, he’s gonna hit some power,” Little said of Schunk. “Right now, it’s kind of a developing thing as he learns to do more with the bat but guys that can learn how to hit to all fields are good hitters.”

The hits kept coming.

MacIver and Michael Toglia singled with one down, then Datres hit a long fly to right-center that carried out for a three-run homer.

Yan (0-3, 6.98) saw two more batters in the second, allowing a run-scoring double by Schunk, and manager Andy Schatzly came out with the hook. Yan allowed six earned runs on seven hits. He faced 11 batters.

Reliever Luis Alvardo didn’t provide much relief. He hit MacIver, then forced in the seventh run with a two-out base on balls. It could have been more, but Daniel Cope grounded out to end the inning and leave the bases loaded.

The rest was up to Olivarez, who was up to the task.

“He’s starting to get a really good feel for all his pitches,” Schunk said of Olivarez. “He’s been in the zone, so it was a really good job for him and hopefully he can build on that.”

Around the league

Eugene 6, Vancouver 5 (10): Franklin Labour scored on a passed ball in the 10th and the visiting Emeralds (17-9) outlasted the Canadians (15-11) in Hillsboro, Oregon. Jacob Gonzalez homered for Eugene. 

Hillsboro 6, Everett 2: Tra Holmes went 2 for 5 with two RBIs and the visiting Hops (11-15) topped the AquaSox (16-10). Ryne Nelson struck out 10 over 5 2/3 innings for Hillsboro. 

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