It wasn't until well after Salem-Keizer's 2-0 victory Tuesday over Tri-City in Game 2 of the Northwest League championship series that the weight of the Volcanoes' win hit Chris Gloor.
With a loss, S-K would have been down 2-0 in the series, forcing it to win all three at Volcanoes Stadium to prevent a Dust Devils victory party in their house.
"When you put it like that, this was bigger than I thought," said Gloor, a 6-foot-6 left-hander who stymied Tri-City's bats for 6 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits while striking out six. "I was a little nervous before today, but I have faith in my team."
The low-scoring contest was a mirror image of Game 1, when both starters produced strong outings but only one could come away with the win.
Dust Devils starter Wes Musick allowed just one hit in 4 2/3 innings, but that one hit was a costly one -- a two-out solo home run to Drew Biery in the top of the fourth that accounted for the game's first run.
"I threw a pitch I knew he was going to hit. He did his job," said Musick, who delivered a 3-2 fastball right down the middle in the hope that pitcher-friendly Gesa Stadium would hold it and give his defense a chance to make a play. "Both teams are battling hard right now, back-and-forth. You've got to tip your hat to both sides."
The two teams have combined for just four runs in the first two games -- Tri-City won Monday's opener 2-0 -- and both sides have played clean, errorless baseball thus far.
"It's been a dogfight," said Biery, the league's Most Valuable Player, whose last home run came on Aug. 16. "We'll see who can play defense and get timely hits."
The Volcanoes added an insurance run in the ninth on a one-out RBI single by Juan Martinez. Martinez finished with two hits to lead S-K.
Tri-City had one final chance to put up some runs after Ben Paulsen drew a two-out walk against S-K closer Jason Stoffel. That brought up Kent Matthes, who represented the tying run. Matthes led the NWL with 23 doubles and had already hit a pair of two-baggers off Gloor.
"I liked (Matthes') chances. He's been hitting the ball well," said Dust Devils manager Fred Ocasio. "I was hoping he'd get one of those fastballs and hit it out of the park."
But Stoffel had his number, striking him out on three pitches. The 6-2 right-hander dropped in a curve on Matthes for strike one, then got him to chase a pair of fastballs -- the last one high and out of the zone -- to end the game.
"I hadn't seen his breaking stuff. I was looking for a fastball 0-0," said Matthes, who had two of the Dust Devils' three hits on the night. "I swung at some bad pitches. You have to make him throw something in the zone."
The split in Pasco makes this a best 2-of-3 series in Keizer. But both teams finished the regular season with better road records than at home. The Dust Devils (48-30) had the NWL's best road record at 25-13, which they feel bodes well for their chances at Volcanoes Stadium.
Tri-City sat two strong left-handed bats in Bo Bowman and Kevin Clark against Gloor, but both could figure heavily against right-handed starters Craig Westcott and Wilbur Bucardo for Games 3 and 4.
"I don't always believe in momentum. Every game is totally different," Ocasio said. "It was another well-played game by both teams. I'd rather lose a well-played game than a sloppy game."
Game 3 starters will be Dust Devils RHP Dan Perkins (3-2, 2.80) against Westcott (3-0, 3.26). ... Game 1 lasted just 1 hour, 44 minutes, which set a NWL playoff record for shortest game.
Jack Millikin; 582-1406; firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his Dust Devils blog at sportstricities.com