Tri-City Dust Devils

Dust Devils force Game 3 in Northwest League Championship Series

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- One day after losing Game 1 of the Northwest League Championship Series at home, the Tri-City Dust Devils gave themselves a shot to win their first NWL title.

In a tension-filled game that went down to the wire, Tri-City reliever Nelson Gonzalez faced a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the ninth inning. But he got Vancouver all-star Jon Berti to hit into a game-ending double play to give the Dust Devils a 5-3 Game 2 victory against the Canadians at Nat Bailey Stadium.

"Whatever happened in the beginning (of the inning), I've still got a lot of confidence that I can finish," said Gonzalez, whose confidence in his defense was rewarded. "I know every player behind me is going to do their best to get the out. That's the biggest thing in the world."

Tri-City and Vancouver will play at 1:05 p.m. today in Game 3 at Nat Bailey Stadium, a game that will decide the NWL championship.

Dust Devils right-hander Tyler Gagnon will get the start for Tri-City. The Canadians haven't named a Game 3 starter.

Whomever they face today, the Dust Devils gave themselves some much-needed confidence entering today.

"I knew this was a winning atmosphere when I got here," said Tri-City third baseman Sam Mende, whose two-run double in the top of the third gave the Dust Devils a 3-2 lead they never relinquished. "Now we're trying to win a championship."

Mende, who joined Tri-City just before its playoff run, later drove in another run with a sixth-inning double that made it 4-2 and then scored on a passed ball by Vancouver catcher Chris Schaeffer to push the lead to 5-2.

He was also involved in a key defensive play in the bottom of the fourth when the Canadians put runners on first and third with nobody out. But Tim Smalling fielded a ground ball and threw to Mende at third, catching Roan Salas in a rundown that killed the C's rally.

"That won the ballgame there," Mende said. "They had momentum rolling, but Smalls stayed in the play."