Indians lose championship on walk-off balk
EUGENE, Ore. — It was far from a conventional finish on Tuesday night, but the Eugene Emeralds completed a ninth inning comeback to defeat the Spokane Indians, 3-2. One of the more memorable seasons for Spokane came just a few wins short of an NWL Championship.
The Indians found themselves in a familiar position as Monday night – trailing after the first inning. With Nelson Velazquez at second, Levi Jordan hit a sharp grounder to Jax Biggers that was bobbled. Knowing that Jordan would be safe at first, Biggers fired home to try and get Velazquez but the tag just barely missed him before crossing home. Eugene took an early 1-0 lead.
Spokane didn’t wait long to respond. The Indians capitalized after Diosbel Arias reached second after a dropped third strike followed by a throwing error. Sherten Apostel singled out to right to bring Arias home to score. It was the first Spokane run that came on something other than a home run this series.
It didn’t take much time for the long ball to reemerge though. In the fifth, Apostel gave the Indians their first lead since game one when he smashed a 400-plus monster shot to right-center field. It was Apostel’s second home run of the season, the last coming on August 31 st against Tri-City. It was a game that propelled the Indians to a four-game winning streak and it looked like it would make the difference in Tuesday night’s game as well.
The score remained 2-1 all the way until the ninth inning. The Indians looked to the usually reliable Emmanuel Clase to close the door and extend the series. Clase got into some trouble, allowing two hits and a hit by pitch to load the bases. Even with the struggles, the Indians stood just an out away from picking up the win. Yet, Eugene prevailed. Andy Weber showed patience and drew a bases-loaded walk to tie the game.
Spokane was still looking for an out to force extra innings. However, when facing the next batter, Clase got called for a balk. The costly mistake allowed Yonathan Perlaza to walk home for the series-winning run. Manager Kenny Holmberg came out to argue that time had been called prior to the balk, but even after a meeting between the umpires, the balk call was upheld.
Overlooked in the loss was another stellar performance from Spokane starter John King. The 2017 10 th round pick didn’t allow a single earned run in his five innings of work, while allowing just three hits and striking out four Emeralds. Cole Uvila also threw three shutout innings out of the Indians’ bullpen.
For Eugene, it’s their second championship in the last three seasons. Remarkably, Eugene had the worst overall record this season at 31-45. Yet, the Ems were perfect in the postseason, going 5-0 in the two rounds, and winning four of those five games by the score of 3-2.
For Spokane, the Indians made their first appearance in the NWL Championship since 2010, but have still yet to win one since the 2008 season.
The 2018 season will be remembered for many reasons but most memorably a remarkable turnaround from worst to first to win the second half division title, an MVP season from Curtis Terry who led the league in home runs and RBI, and a new attendance record with 198,423 fans coming out to Avista Stadium.