Volcanoes look to three-peat against Spokane

Two-time defending champs enter 2008 finals as underdogs

Salem-Keizer's Michael Ambort played in just 34 games, but still finished second in the Northwest League with nine home runs. (Patrick Ostrander/MLB.com)

By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com | September 3, 2008 11:41 AM ET

The 2006 team had Manny Burriss and Brian Bocock along with pitching prospect Kevin Pucetas. Even Tim Lincecum stopped by briefly to begin his pro career that summer.

Last year's club featured a short visit from super-prospect Angel Villalona as well as co-league Player of the Year Matt Downs.

But more than individual players, the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes have become known for developing champions. The two aforementioned clubs both hoisted the Northwest League trophy at season's end.

"It's equally important to develop winners [at this level]," said manager Tom Trebelhorn, who is in his first year managing Salem-Keizer after taking over for two-time Northwest League Manager of the Year Steve Decker. "It's a terrific league, with really good cities and fan bases. It's a great first step for a lot of these guys. It's a good stepping stone."

That stone could lead to a three-peat for the Volcanoes, though they face a stern task in the Spokane Indians, who had the league's best record this summer.

"It would be a great experience for us as players to continue that tradition," first baseman Mike Loberg said. "Our fans here are used to winning and have been so supportive that we can't let them down now ... plus to win one for Treb would make it that much sweeter."

Salem-Keizer's ace, Mike Loree, agreed with the slugger's sentiments.

"To win three straight would be pretty special," Loree said. "I can't think of many other teams that have had the opportunity to do that and, without a doubt, it would be great for the city as well.

Salem-Keizer wasn't quite as deep this year as it has been in the past, with some of the Giants' young players making the leap straight to full-season ball and others remaining in Arizona to contribute to the AZL champion Giants in Scottsdale.

"It was a little bit of a struggle this year," Trebelhorn said. "We did have a bunch of kids from extended Spring Training, which was good. You have 40 or so players in extended, you wonder what you'll do with them. This year, they all came in handy. This was an organizational title, a reward for guys who were left behind."

Now they can look ahead and dream of bringing a third straight championship to Salem-Keizer. Though Spokane seems to have a clear advantage on paper, Trebelhorn thinks the Volcanoes might have a mysterious ace up their sleeve.

"We're dangerous," Trebelhorn said with a laugh. "I don't know what we're going to do [in any given game], so how is Spokane going to know?"


Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (40-35) vs. Spokane Indians (50-25)
Best-of-5 series begins Thursday, Sept. 4

Head-to-Head Statistics

The Volcanoes have had a stranglehold on the Northwest League title recently and will be going for a three-peat this year. Salem-Keizer also won the championship in 2001 and 1998. The last time the Volcanoes didn't win was in 2005. The winner? You guessed it -- the Spokane Indians. The Rangers affiliate also took home the trophy in 2003. For Spokane to end Salem-Keizer's run, the Indians will have to rely on the league's best pitching staff (3.52 ERA) while hoping the best run-scoring offense (427 runs) can give that staff leads to hold.


Spokane went 7-3 in its 10 games against Salem-Keizer. The two teams last met August 15-19, with the Indians taking four of five from the Volcanoes at Salem-Keizer.

Mike Loberg led the Salem-Keizer offense against Spokane, hitting .314 with a pair of homers and nine RBIs in the 10 games. ... Jose Flores hit .313 in nine games and Johnny Monell also hit .313 with two homers in nine games. ... Mike Loree made a pair of starts and had a 3.00 ERA, though had no record to show for it. ... Lefty Ari Ronick went 2-0 in his two starts, yielding just two earned runs in 11 innings for a 1.64 ERA.

Michael Bianucci hit .360 with nine RBIs in seven games for Spokane against Salem-Keizer. Too bad he'll be out with an injury. ... Dennis Guinn will be there, though -- he hit .412 with two homers and nine RBIs in nine games. ... Jared Bolden hit .364 with a .977 OPS in eight games. ... Carlos Pimentel went 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA in two starts against the Volcanoes, striking out 10 in nine innings. ... Martin Perez also had a 2.00 ERA over nine innings while fanning 11. ... Reliever Yoon-Hee Nam is the only hurler with two wins. He had a 2.89 ERA in 9 1/3 innings.


Salem-Keizer: Francisco Peguero finished sixth in the league in hitting with a .307 average, just one spot ahead of teammate Jose Flores (.302). ... Michael Ambort played in just 34 games, but still finished second in the league with nine homers while driving in 34 runs. His .664 slugging percentage would have easily led the league had he played enough to qualify. ... Mike Loberg topped the league with 49 RBIs. ... Mike Loree won the ERA crown with a 2.64 mark in 14 starts. He walked just six and struck out 69 in 75 innings. ... Andrew Reichard wasn't far behind with a 2.87 ERA (third). ... Closer Edwin Quirarte was tied for second in the league with 13 saves while posting a 2.22 ERA and striking out 29 in 28 1/3 innings.

Spokane: David Paisano hit just .265 over 64 games, but was third in the Northwest League with 43 RBIs. ... Eric Fry and Joey Butler finished ninth and tenth, respectively, in the league batting title race by hitting .298 and .295. ... 2007 supplemental first-round pick Neil Ramirez didn't pitch enough to qualify, but his 2.66 ERA (over 44 innings) would have been good enough for second. He struck out 52 and held hitters to a .166 average. ... Wilfredo Boscan led the league with nine wins and placed third in strikeouts (70, vs. 11 walks) and fourth in ERA (3.12). ... Carlos Pimentel (3.31) and Martin Perez finished fifth and seventh, respectively, in the ERA race.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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