Over the past week, Spokane skipper Tim Hulett watched his team struggle to finish the first half of their season strong. But when the biggest moment of the season arrived for the Indians, they were there to seize it.
Paced by 10 strikeouts over seven innings by Derek Thompson, short-season Spokane blanked Everett, 3-0, to capture the Northwest League North Division first-half crown.
Texas' short-season affiliate went into Monday night's game knowing only a win would lock up the title. Vancouver's victory Monday afternoon meant a Spokane loss would hand the Minor Leagues' lone Canadian team the North Division's first playoff berth of the season.
"I think the whole time, we wanted to be able to win and say we won and got in because of winning a game, not because we backed in," Hulett said. "I'm sure we would have taken it any way we would've gotten it. We've played pretty well all year long, this first half. You hate to minimize it on just the one game, but it was a great game."
Thompson (3-4) puzzled AquaSox hitters, fanning multiple hitters in three frames and finishing on a high note by striking out the side in the seventh. The win marked the longest outing of the year for the southpaw, who gave up just three hits and walked two.
"Derek went out there and pitched a fantastic game, got through seven real easy and struck guys out," Hulett said. "He did a great job."
Jose Trevino smacked a solo homer and Fernando Vivili added an RBI double for the Indians.
Spokane had lost five of its last seven heading into the final day of the first half.
"I think complacency was one of the things that we dealt with this first half," he said. "Even though we were able to clinch it tonight, we had a four-game lead with 10 games to go. We were just showing up, going through the motions. We were still playing pretty well, but we weren't putting teams away. We weren't finishing games as well as we were early in the year when it seemed like we were going to win every game. You could see that creeping in, and it's tough to deal with. There will be a lot of work the second half."
With the victory, the Indians matched the Canadians with an identical 25-13 record, best in the Northwest League. It also clinched Spokane's first postseason trip since 2010.
Eugene 13, Hillsboro 7
Despite missing out on an opportunity to win the Northwest League South title outright with a win, Hillsboro clinched the crown by having the tiebreaker over Boise. Both teams finished with 22-16 records. The Hops outhit the Emeralds, 14-11, in the loss. Box score
Great Falls 12, Idaho Falls 8
The Voyagers saw an early 7-0 lead slip away, but snapped a late tie with a four-run eighth inning. The victory, coupled with Missoula's loss to Orem, handed Great Falls the Pioneer League North Division's first-half title. Box score