With bolts of lightning coursing through the clouds above Pasco, the Tri-City Dust Devils fought through a potential storm Monday at Gesa Stadium to earn a 4-3 Northwest League victory over the Spokane Indians.
With their third consecutive series win and second series sweep of the year, the Dust Devils looked like a team that couldn’t be stopped by the weather.
“Right now, this team is in a good place,” said Tri-City manager Fred Ocasio. “We’re doing all the right things, and we’re coming together. We just have do continue doing what we’re doing.”
Still, Mother Nature tried to get a few good licks in as reliever Brook Hart took the mound in the ninth inning. But the 6-foot-5 left-hander out of State College, Pa., set down the Indians 1-2-3, catching Guy Edmonds looking at a 2-2 fastball for strike three just minutes before a loud thunderclap tore through the sky.
“Once I went in the game, I didn’t notice anything,” said Hart, who picked up his second save. “Up around New England, this is pretty frequent in June and July.”
The Dust Devils offense got what it needed, too. Eight hits and four runs was just enough to beat Spokane, a team spiraling toward the bottom of the division with its fifth consecutive loss. Tri-City (13-12) won its fourth straight game but failed to gain any ground on Yakima (15-10), which beat Boise 10-4 to hold a two-game lead on first place. The Indians (8-17) are tied with Boise (8-17) in third place.
The Dust Devils got on the board in the first inning, when Kyle Von Tungeln was hit by a pitch to lead off the game. Three batters later, Miguel De Leon was looking for something tasty on the first pitch from Spokane starter Abel De Los Santos and targeted a first-pitch fastball, driving it over the wall in left field for a 2-0 lead.
“I was looking for a fastball,” said De Leon, interpreted by teammate Robert De La Cruz. “That was important. When you score in the first couple innings, it gives you the opportunity to continue to score more runs.”
Yakima cut the lead to 2-1 in the third on an RBI double by Edmonds and tied it at 2 in the fourth when Barrett Serrato drove in former Gonzaga star Royce Bolinger with a one-out single to center.
The Dust Devils re-took the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Michael Ramirez, the No. 8 hitter, started things off with a one-out double to left, and Yafistel Roja then singled just over second baseman Cam Schiller to put runners on first and third.
That brought up Von Tungeln, a 13th-round draft pick out of TCU who got a hit in his professional debut on July 2 and hasn’t stopped hitting since. The 6-foot outfielder bounced a double down the right field line to score Ramirez and send Roja to third.
Rosell Herrera then brought home Roja with a run-scoring sacrifice fly to left, making it 4-2 Tri-City.
Von Tungeln went 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI, extending his hitting streak to seven games and raising his average to .435.
“I go up there looking for a pitch I can drive,” said Von Tungeln. “I’ll take pitches until a pitcher establishes his command. If he doesn’t, I’m not going to go up there swinging at pitches out of the zone.”
Ocasio, who plans to keep Von Tungeln in the leadoff role, said that’s just the kind of approach he’s looking for in a leadoff man.
“He understands his role as a leadoff guy. You can tell he’s a patient hitter,” Ocasio said.
Spokane scored a run in the top of the eighth inning, a two-out RBI single by Bolinger, to cut the lead to 4-3. But reliever Tyler Gagnon settled in to record the third out.
Bolinger, a sixth-round draft pick by the Texas Rangers out of Gonzaga, finished 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI.
Tri-City starter Shane Broyles (2-0) was solid, allowing two runs on four hits through five innings. The 14th-round draft pick out of Texas Tech also struck out seven batters.
“Broyles threw well today. Early in the game, his command wasn’t there, but he settled down,” Ocasio said.
Notes: The Dust Devils will enjoy the first of three off days today. They’ll be hitting the links in the team’s annual golf outing. Ocasio, who was part of the winning foursome last season, will be joined by pitching coach Dave Burba, pitcher Eric Federico and Dust Devils Director of Sponsorships Lauren Coombs. Asked who was the weak link of the bunch, Ocasio responded, “Probably me. The strongest part of my game is probably driving the cart.” ... Tri-City will resume its schedule Wednesday starting with a five-game road trip in Everett.