The ball Francisco Sosa hammered gave the Tri-City Dust Devils life.
The ball he looped into left gave them the lead and, ultimately, the win.
Sosa’s three-run bomb sparked a five-run rally in the fifth and sixth innings, and the outfielder delivered a two-run single in the bottom of the eighth to propel the Dust Devils to a 7-5 win over the Boise Hawks in Northwest League baseball Friday night.
“It feels good to help the team,” Sosa said through an interpreter.
He did far more than just help on this night after driving in five of his team’s seven runs.
The Dust Devils (7-11) were looking as listless as the 1,432 fans at Gesa Stadium before Sosa’s big blow.
Boise (6-12) scored five runs in the first two innings, jumping on Tri-City starter Ben Hughes with four hits in the first — including a leadoff liner to left that the late-evening sun helped turn into a triple.
The Hawks then took advantage of a walk-run approach in the second — a pair of walks and a double steal — to set up a two-run single by Gioskar Amaya through a drawn-in infield.
Amaya moved up to second on the throw home, stole third and then scored on a sacrifice fly.
But Hughes found his groove from then on, setting down 14 of the last 15 batters he faced and throwing blanks for the next four innings.
“I was talking to (pitching coach Dave) Burba about that. I feel like he had a good game after giving up five runs in the first two innings,” said Dust Devils manager Fred Ocasio. “I didn’t think he’d be in the game after the third.”
Hughes left with the score knotted 5-all, and Chris Dennis (2-1) came on for two innings of scoreless relief before William Rankin slammed the door shut in the ninth for his NWL-leading fifth save.
“The bullpen did a great job,” Ocasio said.
Boise’s five-run lead was looking mighty steep as the Dust Devils were taking their turn in the fifth, but then Hawks starter Tayler Scott was lifted after a walk and an error sent his pitch count over 80.
Hayden Simpson came in from the bullpen but was anything but a relief, promptly giving up an RBI single to right to Kyle Von Tungeln in his Dust Devil debut.
Sosa then stepped to the plate, having walked in the first inning and struck out in the fourth. He jumped on the first pitch he saw and cracked a jack deep over the left-field wall, his second home run of the summer to pull Tri-City to within 5-4.
“On the home run, I was looking for a high pitch,” Sosa said. “On the second hit, I was only reacting to the ball.”
In the sixth, Von Tungeln’s bases-loaded walk tied the game as the Dust Devils took advantage of three of Boise’s 10 walks on the night compared to just two for Tri-City.
And in the eighth, three more walks brought Sosa up with the bases loaded and two out, and he delivered again, running his season RBI total to nine.
“They made some errors that helped out getting us back, but the one thing I thought we’ve been missing is big hits,” Ocasio said, “and Sosa got two big hits tonight.”
The win secures Tri-City’s first series victory this season, and the two teams will finish the three-game set tonight.
The Dust Devils were out-hit 8-4 by Boise, but Sosa sees some good things coming Tri-City’s way.
“The team’s going to start winning games,” he said. “We’re going to be successful now because everybody’s feeling the energy, and it feels very good.”
Notes: The Dust Devils will hold their annual Fourth of July fireworks show after tonight’s game before heading to Boise on Wednesday. ... Tonight’s scheduled starters are Ian Dickson (1-0, 4.15 ERA) for Boise and Peter Tago (0-3, 10.38) for Tri-City. ... Former Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox great Bill Buckner is the hitting coach for the Hawks, an affiliate of the Cubs. Entering the night, Boise was second in the NWL in hitting (.256), trailing only Eugene (.269). Tri-City is ranked last at .215.