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Emeralds score three runs in the 9th to beat Indians, take 2-0 series lead

By Jason Shoot The Spokesman-Review

Every game is in must-win territory now.

Eugene’s Franklin Labour broke a scoreless tie in the top of the ninth inning, and the Emeralds collected a 3-0 victory over Spokane in Game 2 of the High-A West Championship Series on Wednesday at Avista Stadium.

Eugene enjoys a 2-0 series lead and can clinch the title with one more win in the best-of-5 matchup that continues Thursday on the Indians’ home field at 6:30 p.m.

“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us,” Spokane manager Scott Little said.

The Emeralds broke through in the top of the ninth against Spokane reliever Dugan Darnell.

Tyler Fitzgerald hit a one-out single to left field and Marco Luciano walked. Following a strikeout, Labour bounced a grounder through the left side of the infield to drive in Fitzgerald with the go-ahead run.

Ismael Munguia, who finished 4 for 5, added a double to the wall in right-center to drive in Luciano and Labour and provide the game’s final margin.

The Indians had runners on first and second in the ninth but failed to score.

The contest was a reversal from the night before when the Emeralds hit four home runs in a 15-7 rout.

Spokane starting pitcher Chris McMahon threw 6⅓ scoreless innings and allowed four hits to keep his team in contention. McMahon struck out seven and walked two.

His counterpart, Eugene’s Connor Nurse, was equally effective . Nurse struck out eight and allowed five hits in seven innings.

Every inning he pitches is new territory for McMahon, who threw 112-plus innings over three years at the University of Miami. The right-hander surpassed that this season with 114 1/3 innings before Wednesday’s start. His fastball was sitting around 90 mph all night, and he utilized an effective slider to stymie an Emeralds team that had clubbed 37 homers in 19 previous matchups against Spokane.

“Right now I’m feeling pretty good,” McMahon said of the increased workload.

Both teams struggled to produce much offense against pitchers who had mixed results against their opponent during the season.

Eugene tagged McMahon for five home runs in three matchups earlier this summer, but Spokane’s pitcher struck out 20 Emeralds in those games. Nurse had a 6.75 ERA with 20 hits allows in 12 innings this year against Spokane.

Spokane’s Niko Decolati walked with one out in the fifth and reached third with head’s-up baserunning on Daniel Cope’s single to left field. The hustle went unrewarded, however, when Jack Blomgren grounded out to end the inning.

Back-to-back singles put runners on first and second with one out in the seventh, but Nurse induced a strikeout and a weak infield pop-up to work out of trouble.

Eugene had runners on second and third with one out in the eighth, but Blomgren hauled in an over-the-shoulder catch on a pop-up in shallow right field, wheeled around and threw out Munguia at second for an inning-ending double play.