Three eye-popping records hung in the balance during the Tri-City Dust Devils' 3-1 win over Salem-Keizer in the team's regular-season finale Saturday at Gesa Stadium.
Two of those records fell before the game even started. A capacity crowd of 3,811 fans shattered the Dust Devils' single-game mark of 3,796. The crowd also helped the team set a season attendance record for the fifth season in a row with a final total of 85,953.
"This is why we're in baseball, for nights like this," said Dust Devils general manager and vice president Derrel Ebert. "It's a real attribute to the community that they've stepped up to support us five years in a row. And then to set the single-season mark tonight.
"That means every seat in the stands was sold."
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Tri-City also was hoping to grab sole possession of the Northwest League shutout record. The Dust Devils blanked 10 teams this season, which ties them with the 1990 Boise Hawks and 2002 Vancouver Canadians for the NWL mark. However, the Volcanoes scored a run in the top of the eighth to spoil the shutout.
Still, it was difficult to find fault in the team's third consecutive victory and fourth in the last five games. Tri-City starter Chris Jensen (2-1) tossed seven scoreless innings in his best start of the season to pick up his second professional win.
Jensen balanced a low-90s fastball with a curve he was consistently getting over for strikes. He was relieved by Rafael Suarez in the eighth inning, coming out 87 pitches into a 90-pitch count.
"Of course I wanted to come back out," said Jensen, who benefited from an ESPN Top-10 caliber defensive play by shortstop Taylor Featherston to end the fifth inning.
Danny Brock, Salem-Keizer's No. 8 hitter, hit a hard grounder back up the middle with one out and a runner on first. Featherston dived to his left, fully-extended, to glove the ball, then flipped it over his shoulder from his glove to second baseman Sam Mende. From there, Mende turned and threw to Tyler Massey at first to complete the double play.
"Featherston is incredible. He's been doing that all yeaer long," Jensen said.
Featherston also drove in two runs with an RBI groundout in the second and a triple to deep left field in the fourth to make it 3-0 Tri-City. Juan Crousset also had a good night, going 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI.
"It feels so good to play like that in our last (regular-season) game," said Crousset, who admitted he has never won a championship of any kind but likes where the Dust Devils are in terms of momentum.
"I tell you, (the excitement) is too much," he said with a smile. We're doing good mentally. All the time we're trying to play better."
The win also gave Tri-City some much-needed momentum heading into the NWL divisional playoff seres beginning at 5:45 p.m. on Monday in Boise. Games 2 and 3 (if necessary) will be Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:15 p.m. at Gesa Stadium.
"That's something we talked to the players about when we weren't playing well. We have to go into the playoffs with some momentum," said Dust Devils manager Fred Ocasio. "Right now, I like the the way the guys are throwing the ball and playing defense. Pitching and defense help you win."
The two attendance marks were indicative of the steady and growing support the franchise has earned since Brett Sports and Entertainment began managing the stadium operations in 2005.
"I can't describe how much fun this year has been," Ebert said. "This is the best staff I've worked with in my 10 years."