Audio: Indians are the champions
Audio: Hogan's go-ahead single
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An emotional week for Doug Hogan ended late Sunday night, just the way he envisioned it.
Hogan hit a go-ahead RBI single in the 10th inning and the Spokane Indians edged the two-time defending champion Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, 6-5, to capture the Northwest League title.
Dennis Guinn drew a one-out walk in the 10th, stole second one out later and continued to third on catcher Trent Kline's throwing error. Hogan followed with a base hit to left field off Ryan Verdugo, essentially ending Salem-Keizer's bid to three-peat.
Hogan, who led the team in homers during the season, slugged a walk-off shot in the 10th to give Spokane the win in Game 2.
"It feels really great to be able to come up in two big hits in the clutch," Hogan said. "It feels great."
Hogan's timely hit provided a momentary sense of relief after the 23-year-old lost one of his best childhood friends earlier in the week.
"I got a call after the game Tuesday night, I had missed calls from a bunch of my friends saying he'd passed away," Hogan said. "They don't know why, an aneurysm or a heart attack maybe. It's been a real tough past couple of days."
Hogan, euphoric after his walk-off homer, had to decide whether to return home for his friend's funeral or stay with Spokane for a title run. Baseball suddenly became therapy for the young catcher.
"Coming out on top, with two big hits, I knew he was looking out for me," Hogan said. "I know it was the right decision."
"I told him, not as an organization, 'You need to do what you need to do, personally. If you want to stay, stay, and I can only imagine how tough that situation is," Indians manager Tim Hulett said. "He had to make a tough decision. He was an emotional wreck the next day. For him to get the game-winner in Game 2 was awesome, I was so happy for him. He had a couple big hits, I'm so happy for Doug."
It's the first Northwest League crown for the Indians since 2005 and their fourth in 10 years.
Hogan also had a clutch RBI double in Game 3 and hit .286 with four RBIs in the four-game series.
"This was something pretty special," he said. "It's something I'll remember forever."
Selected by Texas in the 18th round of the June First-Year Player Draft, Hogan was 2-for-5 in the clincher and, more importantly, was glad he stuck it out on the diamond.
"He was one of my best friends my entire life," he said. [Baseball] helped out more than anything, it kept my mind off everything. I found myself thinking about him whenever I was away from the game. It helped out a lot. I've tried to keep myself busy."
His decisive single in the 10th, he said, may have topped Friday's walk-off homer.
"I can't really describe it," Hogan added. "It was a great feeling. It might have been [better] under the circumstances."
Corey Young struck out Caleb Curry and got a pair of grounders in the bottom of the 10th to earn the save and seal the title for the Tribe.
Juan Peralta (1-0) pitched a scoreless ninth for the win after Spokane starter Carlos Pimentel allowed two runs on four hits over four innings.
Eric Fry and Joey Butler drove in runs to give the Indians a lead in the first before Fry homered in the third and Jared Bolden tripled in a run in the fourth.
Salem-Keizer rallied with a pair of runs in the seventh, but Matt West's RBI grounder plated Hogan in the eighth to force extra innings for the second time in the series.
Fry led the way for the Indians, batting .400 with four homers and 10 RBIs in four games.
Spokane dominated the regular season with a league-best 51-25 record and an East Division crown under Hulett.
"He's been excellent," Hogan said. "I have had so much fun paying for him, he's unlike anyone I've played for. He just has a real laid-back approach, it's pretty unique. He's really understanding and easygoing, and it obviously works -- we got a championship. But he's a great guy to play for."
"We set out at the beginning of the season to win the championship. We clinched the division and I reminded [the players] of that, they hadn't won it yet," Hulett said. "We played so well early on, in the second half we ended up trying to coast. But this was an awesome team to manage this year."
The Indians recorded another dramatic win in Game 3, 11-10, taking advantage of 14 walks and four errors.
"We knew this was a good team coming in, we'd played them and we saw what kind of club they were," Hogan said. "They've got [one of the] toughest lineups we had to pitch to, so this was by far the toughest series all year. Every game was a dogfight."
The Volcanoes, who led 5-4 heading into the eighth, were without one of their top run-producers, Ryan Lormand. The second baseman, who had 29 RBIs during the season, was ejected in the first inning after grounding into a double play.
Verdugo (0-1) took the loss after yielding an unearned run on a hit and walk in the 10th. Starter Mike Loree was charged with four runs on eight hits over four innings.
Trophy by his side, Hogan was finally able to smile.
"Guys were spraying each other with champagne, it was a lot of fun, guys were cut loose," he said. "I almost left for the funeral, so to come through with two big hits, it was more than a championship."
Danny Wild is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.