Here's a quick Dust Devils alumni update: Russell Wilson, who played second base here in 2010 before heading back to the North Carolina State football team, where he started at quarterback.
Well, this year, he's quarterbacking Wisconsin after he was essentially shown the door at NC State when he chose to keep playing baseball in the Colorado Rockies' system. But it's been a great pickup for the Badgers, who beat UNLV tonight 51-17 in the season opener for both teams.
Wilson played most of the game and showed he is a great fit for the offense. As expected, he handed the ball off a lot, but he was also efficient when it came to making passes. Wilson completed 10-of-13 passes for 255 yards and two TDs. He also broke off an impressive 46-yard touchdown run near the end of the first half, getting a couple of great blocks along the way.
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Dust Devils have got it going on tonight. They've got some clutch hits with runners on base, and they've put four runs on the board because of it.
Salem-Keizer took a 1-0 lead in the first, but Tri-City came back with two in the second and two more in the third. Richard Pirkle has an RBI double, and Taylor Featherston added an RBI triple in the third. This is what a playoff-bound team should look like.
Dust Devils lead 4-1.
Tri-City starter Tyler Gagnon is flat out dealing tonight. Volcanoes broadcaster Matt Pederson did some homework before the game and reported that with the exception of allowing 10 earned runs in a bizarre outing at Salem-Keizer back on July 10, Gagnon has allowed just 10 earned runs in 12 starts before tonight. That adds up to a 1.41 ERA over 64 innings aside from that one aberation.
He's done well tonight, too, allowing just one run on two hits over six innings and holding the Volcanoes top hitters — including Northwest League MVP Joe Panik — without any big hits.
Craig Bennigson got into some trouble in the top of the seventh, loading the bases full of Volcanoes with nobody out. All the hits were ground balls, which is ideal for a pitcher. They just happened to find the right spots.
But Bennigson has always been a fighter, and he works out of the jam here. With a big assist to his defense, of course. He got Garrett Buechele, S-K's No. 6 hitter, with a groundball to Featherston to start a 6-4-3 double play. A run scored on the play, but a double play is always good news considering the alternative. Then Bennigson go Ryan Honeycutt to ground out to Featherston for the final out of the frame.
Tri-City still leads 4-2.
The Dust Devils add two more in the bottom half of the seventh. Pirkle ropes a line drive single to lead off the inning, and Leonardo Reyes doubles to set up runners on second and third. Featherston then nubs a little dribbler down the first base line for an infield single, but first baseman Danny Brock then throws the ball away to second trying to get Reyes, sending Pirkle home.
Then Jared Simon drives in Reyes with an RBI groundout to make it 6-2.
Tri-City tacks on one more in the bottom of the eighth on a sacrifice fly to right by David Hernandez to make it 7-2.
Nelson Gonzalez pitched a scoreless eighth for the Dust Devils, and Ken Roberts closes it out in the ninth.
Tri-City wins it 7-2 and stays one game up on Yakima with two games left in the regular season.
This is where it gets a little complicated, however, when it comes to who the Dust Devils will play in the NWL divisional playoffs beginning Monday.
Yakima's chances are slim. It's only chance is if Tri-City loses its last two games and the Bears win their final two. Otherwise, they're done and the Dust Devils win both the first- and second-half titles.
If that happens, it comes down to Boise and Spokane for the best overall record. Right now, the Hawks (35-39) holds a 1-game lead over the Indians (34-40) with two to play.
If Boise and Spokane finish with identical records, it comes down to a head-to-head tiebreaker, and the Indians are 7-5 against the Hawks this season.
My gut tells me it's going to be Boise. But we'll see if Vancouver can end a bad season on a positive note. One thing's for sure. The Canadians are going to be getting a lot of love from Spokane Indians fans over the next couple nights.