The Tri-City Dust Devils came close to securing a spot in Northwest League history Thursday night with a 2-1 win over Vancouver in front of 2,326 fans at Gesa Stadium.
What the Dust Devils got was another energizing victory — their third in a row — as they approach their first NWL playoff appearance since 2011.
Dust Devils pitchers came within one good swing of the 41st no-hitter in NWL history, allowing only a solid single up the middle to Josh Reavis in the top of the seventh.
They couldn’t secure what would have been the third no-hitter of the Dust Devils’ 15-year existence and the ninth no-hitter in Tri-City’s NWL history. But Mitch Morales came up with his second game-winning hit in as many nights, smacking a two-out, ninth-inning single up the middle off standout closer Andrew Case to bring home Mason Smith.
“It’s unbelievable. These guys are so much fun to play with. We couldn’t let that one get away from us,” Morales said. “At one point they had no hits, but we were still losing. We really needed to pull it together for the pitchers and get a couple runs across.”
With the Dust Devils (17-18) trailing 1-0 heading into the ninth, Henry Charles led off with a single, and Nick Vilter bunted him over to second. Mason Smith drove Charles home with a single past a drawn-in infield to tie the score at 1.
Smith then stole second, and after A.J. Kennedy struck out, Morales came up with a chance to be the hero and came through.
“Mason and Mitch probably needed those hits more than anybody on this team to get their confidence back up and show them they’re here for a reason,” Tri-City manager Anthony Contreras said. “These guys are never out of any game.”
Dust Devils starter Joel Linares fought through some trouble in the third inning, hitting a batter and then walking three in a row to gift Vancouver a run. But he righted his own ship, retiring three in a row with the bases loaded and no outs to end the threat.
“I was trying to get comfortable, because I was a little off with my rhythm,” Linares said through interpreter Jose Carlos Urena. “I was trying to throw the ball and get a double play. I tried to keep the ball down and got two strikeouts and a flyball.”
Linares pitched four innings before Luis Hernandez came in for three innings of relief, allowing just one hit. Jerry Keel pitched the final two frames to get the win.
“You can tell (Linares) got pissed a little bit. That’s when his presence kind of switched over,” Contreras said. “He zoned back in and did a great job.”
Around the league
Carlos Hernandez allowed two hits over six scoreless innings for Hillsboro (20-15) in a 12-0 shutout win at Boise (15-20). ... Jamie Potts drove in three runs as Spokane (15-20) recorded a 4-1 home win over Everett (20-15). ... Adbert Alzolay struck out 10 batters over 5 2/3 innings to get the win for Eugene (21-14) in a 5-1 road victory at Salem-Keizer (17-18)
Ty France kept the no-hitter alive in the sixth inning, backhanding Rolando Segovia’s broken-bat grounder behind first base, then spinning 180 degrees to throw to pitcher Luis Hernandez making his way to the bag. France also scooped out a tough short hop on a throw from third baseman Nick Vilter on the very next batter.
Did you know?
Only once in NWL history has a team pitched a no-hitter and lost the game. On June 17, 1970, Tri-City Padres pitchers Wayne Rettig and Frederick Seibly combined for a no-hitter against Bend but lost 2-0.
NWL Divisional playoff tickets are now available at the Tri-City Dust Devils’ ticket office. The Dust Devils will host Game 2 on Tuesday, Sept. 8, and (if necessary) Game 3 on Wednesday, Sept. 9. Stop by Gesa Stadium, call 544-8789 or visit www.dustdevilsbaseball.com.