After starting the season with four consecutive losses, the Spokane Indians came into Saturday’s game hoping for some sparks.
They found some – on the hill and at the plate.
Starter Karl Kauffmann – pitching for the first time in a game since the 2019 College World Series with University of Michigan – was dominant, while Michael Toglia and Cade Harris supplied the power and the Indians slugged their way to their first win, a 10-6 decision over the Eugene Emeralds in a High-A West League game at Avista Stadium.
Toglia hit a two-run homer, his fourth of the season, in the fourth inning and Harris clubbed a three-run shot in a six-run fifth.
Spokane build leads of 8-0 and 10-2 before Eugene chipped away against the bullpen in the latter innings.
“Finally,” Indians manager Scott Little said of the first win. “I mean, it wasn’t like it was easy. It felt like pins and needles there at the end.”
Kauffmann didn’t look rusty at all after a layoff of two years. He faced the minimum over five innings, allowing no hits and two walks, with both free passes wiped out on double plays. He threw 69 pitches, 37 for strikes, with six groundouts and two fly outs.
“It felt great,” Kauffman said. “I was lucky enough to have my parents here today. And so having them here, it was very nice to get out in a Spokane uniform and start this pro career, I guess you could say.”
The cooler temperatures of the past couple of days reminded him of college.
“I mean, we didn’t get nearly as many fans at Michigan at the start of the year,” he said. “But that kind of cold weather, a little chillier – I mean it brought me back to early March in the maize and blue, so it was nice to get out there in front of fans and play baseball.”
Emeralds starter Conner Nurse was as impressive as Kauffmann through the first three innings, but the Indians broke through in the fourth. With one down, Brenton Doyle coaxed a walk on a 3-2 count, then Toglia launched a shot off the scoreboard in right-center for his fourth home run of the season.
“My first at-bat I felt a little late, and he was spinning ball pretty good,” Toglia said. “So going into the second at bat, I was just trying to start a tick earlier, get the barrel more out front, and he gave me a pitch to hit.”
The offense kept rolling in the fifth. Jack Blomgren led off with a single, moved up a base after Nico Decolati walked, then scored on a soft liner to left by Aaron Schunk. Decolati scampered home on a wild pitch and back-to-back walks by Doyle and Toglia brought up Datres with the bases loaded.
Datres skied the first pitch to deep center and the sacrifice fly scored Schunk.
The Indians weren’t done. Harris unloaded on 3-1 pitch from reliever Taylor Rashi and launched it over the 356-foot sign in right-center for a three-run homer and 8-0 lead.
“I feel like we need to score as many runs as we can right now,” Little said, “until we get straightened out completely. I think we will get ironed out a little bit. But you know, it’s good for (Harris), he’s in his fourth or fifth game he hadn’t had hit yet so it’s good to see him get on board.
“We needed a big hit, we needed a little room to breathe and he gave it to us.”
Eugene pushed single runs across in the sixth and seventh, but the Indians replied in the bottom of the seventh. Datres ripped a run-scoring double into the left-field corner and Toglia scored on a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded.
Toglia finished 1 for 2 with three walks. He’s walked eight times in five games.
“Right now, I’m just trying to stay on the fastball, get my body ready and on time for that and anything else, I’m just trying to adjust to,” Toglia said. “And right now the discipline’s where I want it to be, and it’s leading to quite a few walks.”
Spokane started the season 14 of 17 of stolen-base attempts but was caught twice in the first two innings. Blomgren picked up his third of the season in the third inning to extend the Indians’ streak of successful attempts to five games.
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