One night after the Spokane Indians melted down in the ninth inning and Wes Cunningham played hero for Eugene, the baseball gods called for a role reversal.
Spokane scored four runs in the ninth inning Sunday night, completed when Cunningham dropped a fly ball in right field, to stun the Emeralds 7-6 in the middle game of a five-game set at Avista Stadium.
The outcome soothed the Indians’ wounds after Saturday’s loss, in which they walked four batters in the ninth inning, including Cunningham twice, and lost 10-4 on a six-run outburst.
With Clark Murphy at third base, Cunningham dropped Brett Nicholas’ two-out fly to right-center after Santiago Chirino had tied the score at 6 with a two-run dying quail over the head of first baseman Connor Powers.
Cunningham played first base on Saturday, but he was moved to right field after Rymer Liriano was promoted after Saturday’s game.
“You never want to be that guy that misplays that last ball, but it’s baseball and it happens to everybody,” said Spokane outfielder Jared Hoying, who has reached base in 34 consecutive games.
The Indians trailed 6-3 after eight innings, with the offense courtesy of Hoying. Spokane’s MVP candidate had a sacrifice fly in the first, a solo homer in the sixth and singled ahead of Murphy’s triple in the eighth.
The ninth-inning rally began innocently enough, with Alejandro Selen’s one-out single to left and Ryan Strausborger’s infield single that landed in no-man’s land near the third-base line.
Both runners moved up on Jake Skole’s single that dropped in front of center fielder Oscar Garcia.
Hoying got ahead of Robert Sabo (2-1) 3-0 before taking two strikes and fouling off two pitches. He then grounded out for his third RBI of the night and 48th overall – second in the NWL.
The Emeralds intentionally walked Murphy to load the bases for Chirino. The Venezuelan worked the count before fighting off a pitch for the game-tying single.
“I tried to hit the ball on a 2-2 count,” Chirino said. “I got my hands out and got the base hit.”
Saturday’s winner Aaron Everett had Nicholas down 0-2 before the Indians’ catcher hit the ball to right.
“Exactly what we did tonight is how you bounce back from games like (Saturday’s),” Hoying said. “If you keep fighting, fighting, fighting, eventually good things will happen for you.”
Ben Rowen (2-0), who worked a perfect ninth, won for the second time in three nights and dropped his earned-run average to 1.29.
Hoying’s homer was his 10th, which ranks fourth in the league.
Spokane leads the series 2-1 and has split eight games with Eugene this season.
Spokane right-hander Zach Osborne, who hasn’t pitched since July 13, is expected to return Tuesday for relief duty. Osborne has been recovering from facial injuries he suffered when a ball hit him while he stood in the outfield during batting practice. … The Indians, league attendance leaders for 10 consecutive seasons, surpassed 150,000 in their 33rd home game. … Spokane’s record against other NWL teams: Yakima, 5-4; Tri-City, 5-4; Boise, 3-3; Everett, 6-4; Vancouver, 6-4; and Salem-Keizer, 6-4.
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