Indians Drop NWL Championship Opener, 3-2
EUGENE, Ore. — It was a back and forth battle on Sunday night, but when the dust settled, the Eugene Emeralds had taken a 1-0 lead in the NWL Championship Series. The Indians struck early but fell 3-2 in game one at PK Park. The Emeralds have won all three playoff games this season by the score of 3-2.
It looked like a pitchers’ duel early on, as both Eugene’s Riley Thompson and Spokane’s Scott Engler threw three scoreless innings out of the gates.
The Indians got to the opposing starter first. In the fourth inning, Julio Pablo Martinez smacked a solo home run to right field to give the Indians a 1-0 lead. It was his second-straight game with a homer. Just two batters later, Diosbel Arias joined Martinez with a long ball of his own. Arias took his to left, putting Spokane up 2-0 at the end of the fourth.
The Indians’ lead was short-lived. Eugene got on the board in the fifth as Luis Vazquez singled to score Fernando Kelli. Later in the inning, Vazquez came home on a Nelson Velazquez RBI knock to right to tie the game, 2-2. Engler ended the threat but his day ended after five innings.
Things stayed deadlocked through seven innings. Spokane’s Jesus Linarez looked strong out of the bullpen in the sixth and seventh, but he made a costly mistake with two outs in the eighth. On a 2-2 count, Levi Jordan sent a hanging breaking ball from Linarez deep to left, giving Eugene a 3-2 lead. It was just Jordan’s second home run of the season.
Spokane tried to get a Redband Rally going in the ninth inning to force extra innings. After reaching base on a single, Tanner Gardner was able to reach third with two outs. With the tying run just 90 feet away, Hasuan Viera grounded out to end the chances of a Spokane comeback.
While it’s just one win in this five-game series, history is not on Spokane’s side for a league championship. The team that has won game one has gone on to win the NWL Championship in each of the last seven seasons. The last team to drop the opener and win the league was the Everett AquaSox in 2010, who defeated the Indians two games to one. This is the third-straight season the NWL Championship has been a five-game series, rather than a three-game series.
Game two of the NWL Championship Series is Monday at PK Park with first pitch at 7:05 PM.