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Chemistry defines Spokane Indians early in the season

UPDATED: Tue., June 20, 2017, 9:07 p.m.

By Johnathan Curley For The Spokesman-Review

It’s still early in the season, but one trait the Spokane Indians are demonstrating is the power of chemistry. No, not the “academic” version of chemistry taught in high school or college, but something more like the intangible internal feeling that distinguishes a “typical” team from a “family” team.

This was seen throughout the Indians’ five-game season-opening home stand against Boise.

It’s the kind of unique quality that brings a team together when it’s trailing late in a game. It comes together to use chemistry to make deficits shrink. They simply refuse to quit.

Spokane manager Matt Hagen said the team’s belief in itself has been one of the things that has really stood out in the first week.

“We really do have a good team chemistry, especially for the first series of the year,” Hagen said.

And that’s something he said will be helpful later in the summer.

“At some point this season, we’ll be getting some players in from the draft and my hope is that those guys can jump right into what we have going on already and that they’ll feel right at home,” he said.

Aside from the physical challenges related to the daily grind of a baseball schedule, this level of baseball can be tough from a player’s perspective because many of these players are not only young, but inexperienced in the rigors of professional baseball. Ten of the Indians are 20 years old or younger, giving Spokane one of the youngest teams in the Northwest League.

And none are from here. Some aren’t even from the United States. With players from Nevada to Nicaragua, they’re a long way from home and spending all of their days with people they’ve basically just met.

Spokane infielder Kole Enright, from Florida, said that’s part of what has made the team closer.

“I love the guys we have from Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and from Nicaragua,” he said. “We’re a team. That’s part of what you sign up for when you’re coming into a diverse sport like baseball.”

It’s a closeness that was even seen during the team’s opening-night game. Down 4-0 entering the sixth inning, the Indians battled and fought to tie the game in the seventh at 4-4.

After the game, several players said they knew they’d come back, even though the Indians eventually lost 5-4. They talked about bonding during earlier games in the Arizona League.

It was evident again in Sunday’s doubleheader.

In the first game, the Indians lost 3-1. The following game, the Spokane offense exploded for seven runs in the first inning en route to a 10-0 win.

After the game, Indians catcher Isaias Quiroz said, “We’re a big, energetic team. We’re always on each others’ backs, helping each other out. Doesn’t matter if we’re down by 10 or up by 10, we’re always going to have each others’ back. We won’t let each other ever quit.”

That never-say-die attitude surfaced again in Monday’s final game of the series against Boise.

Heading into the seventh inning, the Indians trailed 4-1. A few hits later, the Indians tied it up and then added an eighth-inning Yohel Pozo home run.

That is when the team’s character was tested again. After a leadoff single to open the ninth, Boise clubbed a potential heartbreaking ninth-inning two-run home run to put the Hawks up 6-5.

How did the Indians approach the bottom of the ninth?

With a single. Then a game-tying triple. That was followed by a single to complete the ninth-inning walk-off win over Boise, 7-6.

The players piled on each other.

Cole Ragans, starting pitcher and the Texas Rangers’ eighth-ranked prospect, said this group of guys already feels like a team.

“That’s what we’re made of,” he said. “This is what everyone should expect of us. Most of us have played with together in the AZL so we know what to expect from each other. We like each other and we’re gonna come out and play like that every game down to the last pitch.”

Spokane catcher Clay Middleton agreed.

“We just don’t give up,” he said as the team celebrated around him. “This is a relentless group – very, very relentless. This team is never out of the fight. We believe in each other.”

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