Tri-City Dust Devils

Tri-Cities' Gagnon too sharp S-K this time

PASCO -- The last time Tyler Gagnon faced the Salem-Keizer lineup, things didn't go so well.

The Tri-City Dust Devils' right-hander from Brentwood, Calif., allowed 10 earned runs in a 14-2 road loss on July 10, a defeat he's still trying to put behind him.

But he doesn't want to forget that feeling, either.

"With that team, that's the one game I struggled with," said Gagnon, who turned the tables on the Volcanoes during the Dust Devils' 7-2 victory Thursday night in front of 2,102 fans at Gesa Stadium.

Gagnon (4-3) kept the league's top-hitting team off balance for six innings, allowing one run on just two hits for his first win since Aug. 6. Tri-City relievers Craig Bennigson, Nelson Gonzalez and Ken Roberts held S-K to one run the rest of the way to cap the victory.

Gagnon gave credit to catcher Richard Pirkle for helping keep him locked in, but it was Gagnon who mixed in a smart curve to help balance out his fastball.

"Pirkle and I are always on the same page," he said. "I attacked with the fastball, but I needed to show the curve to the left-handed hitters in their lineup."

The Volcanoes took a 1-0 lead in the first after leadoff hitter Jesus Galindo was hit by Gagnon's second pitch of the night, stole second base, took third on a sacrifice fly and scored on Joe Panik's groundout to second base.

But Tri-City answered back when Jared Simon singled and Jordan Ribera doubled to lead off the second. Jason Langfels then drove in Simon with a sacrifice fly to right, and Pirkle followed with an RBI double to the wall in left to give the Dust Devils a 2-1 lead.

Leonardo Reyes led off the next inning with a single to center. He came home on Taylor Featherston's triple down the right field line to make it 3-1, and Tyler Massey brought Featherston in with an RBI single for a 4-1 lead.

"We were able to get our bats going and got some timely hitting with runners in scoring position," said Tri-City manager Fred Ocasio, who earned his second Northwest League manager of the year nod Tuesday. He also got the honor in 2009.

"Yesterday (in a 4-0 loss) the guys came out flat, but if you show some energy, that's the difference," Ocasio said. "Gagnon did what he always does, and when Bennigson got in trouble in the seventh we got a big double play."

Featherston and Reyes had three hits apiece, and Pirkle added two more as Tri-City ripped S-K pitchers for 12 hits, including four extra-base knocks that all led to runs.

"Last night it seemed like we were just one hit away, but tonight everything just clicked," Featherston said. "The guys were being aggressive, putting pressure on them, and we were able to give Gags an early lead."

The Dust Devils (42-32 overall, 20-16 second half) remained one game up on Yakima in the East Division race with two games left to play. If Tri-City wins the second half, its opponent in the NWL Divisional playoffs would be either Boise (35-39, 18-18) or Spokane (34-40, 14-22), who are battling it out for the best overall record this season. The Dust Devils begin the divisional series Sept. 5 on the road before coming back to Gesa Stadium for Games 2 and 3 on Sept. 6-7.

NOTES: Today's pitching matchups: Tri-City RHP Ben Alsup (3-3, 3.46 ERA) against S-K RHP Paul Davis (1-0, 1.80). ... The Tri-City Americans hockey team took a break from their busy training schedule to take in a ballgame. The Americans, who reached the Western Conference semifinals last season, will open their season against the Spokane Chiefs on Sept. 24 at Toyota Center. ... Minor League Baseball President and CEO Pat O'Connor was on hand to watch the Dust Devils' victory and raved about Gesa Stadium's spectacular view. "There's only a handful of parks I'd pay money to see, and this is one of them," he said. ... Former Tri-City 2B Russell Wilson (2010) put his football talents on display in Wisconsin's 51-17 season-opening win over UNLV. Wilson, a quarterback, completed 10 of 13 passes for 255 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also ran for a 46-yard score.

* Jack Millikin; 509-582-1406; jmillikin@tricityherald.com; Read his Walk in the Park blog at sportstricities.com.

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