Pitcher Sam Hellinger has been used in a variety of roles by manager Kenny Hook in the first two weeks of the season. The Gonzaga alum has succeeded in every one thus far.
On Monday, Hellinger struck out six over 3 1/3 innings during the middle third of the game and the Spokane Indians held on to beat the Boise Hawks 3-2 in the finale of a four-game Northwest League series at Avista Stadium.
The Indians improved to a division-best 9-2.
Blaine Crim’s two-out RBI double in the fifth delivered Luis Asuncion, who had singled earlier, as the go-ahead run. Warner Leal pitched two scoreless innings for the save.
“That was pretty intense playing a one-run game like that,” Hook said. “We haven’t been in a lot of them. So that was fun.”
Hellinger cruised through his stint, allowing one hit and one walk. The only trouble he faced was in the seventh as Shael Mendoza walked, stole second and went to third on a deep fly to center.
Hellinger got into a battle with Yorvis Torrealba and after a couple of close calls, blew him away with a fastball to get out of the jam.
The bench emptied to the top step to meet Hellinger as he came off the field to fist bumps.
“I mean, just to get the innings out here however, you know, I can’t complain,” Hellinger said of his utility this season. “Today it just happened to be pretty important and so I’m really excited about that.
“At this point in my career it’s just good to get out there.”
Hellinger already owns two wins in relief and a save.
“He’s valuable because he can add length and he can come in in middle innings and get you a big strikeout in a jam,” Hook said. “That flexibility helps us a lot.”
Indians starter John Matthews was the Texas Rangers eighth-round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft. He gave up one hit and struck out two in two innings in his successful debut.
The Indians got on the board in the second. Asuncion and Crim led off with back-to-back singles. Both runners moved up on a groundout and Asuncion later scampered home on a wild pitch.
Stanley Martinez and Obie Ricumstrict led off the third with consecutive singles. Ricumstrict was erased on a fielder’s choice by Kellen Strahm and Martinez moved over to third. Cristian Inoa hit a slow bouncer to third and Martinez broke for the plate, but Aaron Schunk made a good throw to nab him.
With one down in the fourth, Schunk clubbed a fastball from Zak Kent over the left-field fence for his first pro homer. After a couple of hits and a walk to load the bases, Hook came out to get Kent and turned to Hellinger.
Bryant Quijada hit a slow roller to third and when a runner crossed in front of Jake Hoover he lost track and fumbled it. All hands were safe and a run crossed the plate to make it 2-1.
The Indians got the run back in the bottom half. Crim led off with a single and David Garcia walked. Jonah McReynolds battled to a 3-2 count and ripped a single up the middle to plate Crim and tie the game.
Boise manager Steve Soliz was ejected in the eighth inning. Schunk singled and attempted a stolen base off a bounced pitch by Leal. He appeared to have beaten the throw by David Garcia, but was called out by base umpire Kellen Martin.
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