The Tri-City Dust Devils had every excuse to take their foot off the proverbial pedal Wednesday night at Gesa Stadium.
After all, the Dust Devils clinched the Northwest League's first-half East Division championship three days earlier and returned home riding a five-game win streak.
But if anything, Tri-City showed signs of yet another gear during a 7-4 victory over the Vancouver Canadians in front of 1,705 fans. The Dust Devils hammered out six extra base hits to tame the Canadians, who fell one game short of winning the West Division title.
Eugene may have been the team of destiny during the first half with a 25-14 record and a NWL record 14-game winning streak, but Tri-City could be the team to beat from here on out.
"This team, they really want this. They go out and play the right way," said Dust Devils manager Fred Ocasio. "One thing I talked about with (hitting coach Anthony) Sanders is they're having fun."
The real fun didn't start until the fourth inning, however, as Vancouver took a 3-1 lead after 31/2 innings, scoring three runs off Tri-City starter Chris Jensen, in his professional debut.
Jensen's first pitch was a 96 mph fastball that just missed the inside part of the plate. His velocity was good throughout, but the Colorado Rockies' sixth-round draft pick out of the University of San Diego was pulled after reaching his pitch limit in three innings.
"He went after hitters. You can tell he's a competitor," Ocasio said. "He just didn't have his command. He can work on that in his next outing."
In the bottom of the fourth, Ryan Casteel started things off with a double to the left field wall. Two batters later, Jayson Langfels singled to set up runners on the corners.
With Jaron Shepherd at the plate, Langfels took off for second, and Vancouver catcher Pierce Rankin's throw bounced in front of second base. By the time second baseman Jon Berti recovered the ball and threw home, Casteel was crossing the plate with a credited steal of home.
It might not be the most glamorous steal of home, but it was indicative of the heady catcher from Cleveland, Tenn.
"He's always hustling," Langfels said of Casteel. "He plays hard every day."
Langfels then came home on Brian Humphries' sacrifice fly to center field, tying the score at 3. Langfels went 3-for-3 with two runs and two RBIs. Taylor Featherston added two hits and three runs.
Tri-City broke the game open in the bottom of the sixth, taking advantage of three consecutive walks and a wild pitch by Canadians reliever Brandon Kaye to put the Dust Devils up 4-3. Alex Pepe came on in relief and promptly gave up an RBI single to Humphries and a bases-loaded walk to Tyler Massey to make it 6-3.
Ben Alsup picked up the win for Tri-City, allowing a run on three hits through five innings, and Craig Bennigson earned his second save with a scoreless ninth.
"We're clicking on all cylinders," Featherston said. "I love everybody in this locker room. We're having fun, but when it's time to play, everybody knows when to get serious."
Notes: The Dust Devils chose to play host to Games 2 and 3 of the best-of-3 NWL divisional series from Sept. 5-7. If Tri-City advances to the NWL championship from Sept. 9-11, it will play Game 1 at home. ... Today's pitching matchups: Tri-City RHP Christian Bergman (3-3, 3.66 ERA) against Vancouver RHP Blake McFarland (4-2, 4.97). ... INF Jeff Squier was promoted to Double-A Tulsa on Wednesday after injuries depleted the Drillers' roster.