For a long time Tuesday evening, it looked like the good fortune that had followed the Spokane Indians on their recently completed eight-game road trip had taken the night off.
But after watching their ace starter Robbie Ross get nicked for three early runs, the Indians again found the magic, scoring three times in the seventh inning to hang a 5-3 Northwest League loss on the West Division-leading Salem-Keiser Volcanoes in front of an Avista Stadium crowd of 5,922.
Former Washington State University standout Jared Prince supplied the big hit in Spokane’s decisive seventh, muscling a 2-1 pitch from S-K reliever Taylor Rogers over the right-field fence for a two-run homer that produced a 4-3 lead. After Miguel Velazquez plated another run with an infield single, Indians manager Tim Hulett turned things over to his capable bullpen, which shut down the Volcanoes the rest of the way.
The win was the seventh in nine games for Spokane, which won four of five from S-K to open its latest road trip and then took two of three from the East Division-leading Tri-City Dust Devils in Pasco, before returning home.
The Indians are alone in second place in the East, six games behind the Dust Devils and on quite a roll.
“We’re a team now,” Prince said when asked to explain the Indians’ recent success. “We’ve found ways to win, and we keep on winning. We’re all in it to win, and we’ve set a goal that we’re going to win every series from here on out.”
Prince certainly did his part to help keep that dream alive with his fifth home run of the season.
“It was a fastball on the outside half (of the plate),” he said. “As soon as I hit it, I was running down the line saying, ‘Go, go, go … get some legs.’ I knew it was off the wall, but I didn’t know if it had enough to get over.”
It did. When it disappeared, it took Ross off the hook.
The young left-hander made his 11th start of the season and left in the fifth inning trailing 3-2. He allowed only six hits and two earned runs but was looking at taking a hard-luck loss until Prince delivered.
“Robbie pitched OK,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said. “He wasn’t his typical dominating self, but he did a good job of keeping us in the game, even though he didn’t have his best stuff.”
It helped that the bullpen trio of Andrew Doyle, Chris Matlock and Kyle O’Campo held the Volcanoes hitless over the final four innings, with Matlock (1-4) earning the win and O’Campo picking up his second save.
The Indians, after spotting the Volcanoes a 1-0 lead in the second, took advantage of S-K starter Craig Westcott’s wildness to score twice in the bottom of third. But they missed a chance to add to the total when Prince was thrown out at home attempting to score on a single to center by Velazquez, who had three hits on the night, including a second-inning triple.
Clark Murphy opened Spokane’s third with a single to left, moved to third on back-to-back walks to Joe Bonadonna and Prince and scored when Westcott hit Vinnie DiFazio with a pitch. Jason Ogata then plated Bonadonna with a sacrifice fly to center to cap the scoring.
Hulett was disappointed his team didn’t score more early, but gave Westcott he due credit.
“Offensively, we had opportunities, but their guy did a great job of pitching with guys in scoring position and we just couldn’t get that big hit,” he said.
Then, when asked what his team has been doing different in recent weeks, he added, “Not a whole lot, really, other than winning instead of just barely losing.
“In all honesty, we played well earlier in the year – just like this – but didn’t win those games. Hopefully, now, we’re over the hump.”
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