The area around Avista Stadium was subject to the gusty winds that came through the Spokane region Wednesday evening – and they were blowing out to left.
When the dust settled, the teams had combined to hit five home runs, all but one over the left field fence, and none was in doubt.
But the game was decided on a ball that didn’t go 15 feet.
Drew Romo scored from second after a sacrifice bunt by Daniel Montano was thrown into right field by catcher Patrick Bailey, and the Spokane Indians walked off the Eugene Emeralds for the second night in row, 9-8, in the second of a six-game Northwest League series at Avista Stadium .
The Indians (18-15) plated three in the ninth to come from behind for the win.
“Against the (Emeralds), it’s always a good win,” outfielder Zac Veen said. “They’re a really good team and, you know, these are two big wins for us.”
“You know, sometimes we’re just kind of still feeling ourselves out at times,” Indians manager Scott Little said. “We get into some bad habits, and then we have to reel ourselves back in and play good baseball. We were fortunate tonight, thank goodness.”
Trailing by two, Eddy Diaz led off the ninth with a single and Veen followed with a single to right. Carter Williams bobbled the pickup and both runners advanced a base.
A wild pitch by reliever by Nick Morreale allowed Diaz to scamper home and Veen to go to third.
Romo then hit a routine grounder to second that went between the legs of Ghordy Santos and into right field, and Grant Lavigne followed with a walk.
That brought up Montano, who had two hits and two RBIs coming into the at-bat. But Little asked his No. 5 hitter to sacrifice and the bunt didn’t get much further than the dirt cut-out.
Bailey fielded it cleanly but rushed his throw and it sailed past first baseman Carter Aldrete, allowing Romo to score without a throw. It was the Emeralds third error of the inning – and fifth of the game.
“I trust Danny bunting. He’s done it all year,” Little said. “He’s gotten the job done.”
The Ems (16-14) jumped on Indians starter Tony Locey right off the bat. With one down in the first, Marco Luciano – the No. 13 overall prospect in the minor leagues – ripped a 1-2 fastball over the wall in left for his fifth homer of the campaign.
Hunter Bishop added an RBI single and a run scored on a sac fly.
Indians designated hitter Colin Simpson made it a one-run game in the second with his fourth homer of the season, a line-drive to the opposite field with Montano aboard, and Julio Carreras tied it in the fourth with a leadoff homer, his second of the season.
Montano gave the Indians a 5-3 lead in the fifth with a two-run single, but Bailey tied it up the next inning with a no-doubt shot to right, ending Locey’s night.
“Probably a couple hitters too long,” pitching coach Ryan Kibler said of Locey.
In the seventh, Casey Schmitt crushed a three-run homer off Indians reliever Tanner Propst.
Romo scored in the bottom half when Aldrete booted a grounder off the bat of Montano.
• Auntie Em: The wind at the stadium was treacherous. Zac Veen nearly had a routine liner fly behind his head in the first inning, then Cristopher Navarro got turned around on a pop-up behind third base that fell – but shortstop Julio Carreras was able to gather it and get a force at second base.
Dust swirled constantly throughout the game.
“The wind definitely picked up a little bit,” Veen said. “Luckily, we got to see it a little bit and BP and you know, it’s definitely tough but happy we adjusted to do it.”
“I didn’t think much about it,” Little said, “but we know the damn ball was flying out of left field.”
• Power surge: Julio Carreras had a homer and double and is on a bit of a power surge with two homers and six extra-base hits in May.
The slender shortstop is known more for his legs, with 49 career steals, but he has “sneaky” pop with 19 homers, 52 doubles and 21 triples in 261 career minor league games.
“When he keeps his swing short and direct to the ball, it jumps off his bat,” Little said. “He just he gets a little long sometimes and he chases but that’s why we’re here – so he can keep improving.”
• Tale of two innings: After the three-spot in the first, Locey retired 17 of 18 batters – with the only runner reaching via error – until the Ems’ rally in the sixth.
He went 5 2/3 innings and allowed five runs on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts and two homers allowed.
“A slow start, but it was good to see him start to fight out of it,” Kibler said. “Really started to show some things with his breaking ball and fastball was well located in third inning and he started to cruise.
“Looking back on it, he probably shouldn’t have been out there in the sixth inning, but thought it could be a bit of a learning experience for him and finish off strong because he was getting better as he went.”
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