Spokane takes early lead in NWL North

Jack Millikin, Tri-City HeraldJuly 2, 2014 

The Spokane Indians have taken early control of the Northwest League’s North Division, winning 15 of their first 19 games.

They did recently have a minor hiccup, losing back-to-back games for the first time this season to open a five-game road series in Eugene on Sunday and Monday.

In addition to leading the NWL in batting (.285), hits (177), doubles (38) and RBIs (100), the Indians have a pitching staff that is pacing the league in fewest free passes (2.6 walks and hit batters per game).

The Indians’ lineup boasts five of the top 10 hitters in the league, led by catcher Seth Spivey (.375) and outfielder Luke Tendler (.344). They also have the winningest pitcher in Nick Gardewire (4-0, 3.43 ERA).

Winning has a way of bringing fans to the ballpark, but fans were already coming out to Avista Stadium in droves. Spokane has led the NWL in attendance for the last 15 seasons, averaging close to 5,000 fans a game for the last 10 years.

The last time the Indians failed to lead the league in attendance was 1999, when the Portland Rockies (before they became the Tri-City Dust Devils) averaged 5,424 fans at Civic Stadium (now Providence Park).

Nine home dates into the season, the Indians are on pace to lead the league again, averaging 4,784 fans a night. Vancouver is close behind at 4,696. Tri-City is last in the league in attendance, drawing 2,058 fans a night over 11 games.

Spokane, which last won a NWL title in 2008, might be the team to dash Vancouver’s hopes of a fourth consecutive championship. The Indians are the only team in league history to accomplish that feat (1987-1990).

Spokane will pay its first visit to Tri-City on July 11 for a three-game North Division series.

Players of the week: Ryan McBroom of Vancouver earned NWL offensive player of the week honors, hitting .379 with three doubles, two home runs and six RBIs in seven games. The 15th-round draft pick out of West Virginia is tied for second in the NWL with three homers.

Andrew Leenhouts of Salem-Keizer was named the NWL pitcher of the week after striking out 11 batters in seven innings in a 2-1 loss at Eugene. He went 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA and 17 strikeouts in two starts last week.

Polonia released: Tri-City second baseman Rodney Polonia, a 21-year-old left-hander from Orange County, Calif., was released by the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday.

Polonia spent three years in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, hitting .217 in the Dominican Summer League from 2011-13. He was signed by the Colorado Rockies as a free agent and hit .286 in seven games with Tri-City, hitting one home run with two stolen bases and five runs scored.

Prospects still arriving in NWL: The Seattle Mariners assigned RHP Lukas Schiraldi, a 15th-round draft pick out of Texas to Everett, while the San Diego Padres sent their fifth-round pick, OF Auston Bousfield (Ole Miss), to Eugene.

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