Simon and Crousset hit home runs to spark Tri-City victoryPosted: Updated:
Pasco, WA--- Jared Simon lined a two-run home run over the left field fence in the bottom of the seventh to give the Tri-City Dust Devils the final runs they would need in a 3-1 victory over the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. Fans at Gesa Stadium don't get to see many home runs at the spacious ballpark. Friday night, a crowd of 2,720, saw two balls clear the fence in the second to last game of the regular season.
The win clinched the Northwest League second half Eastern Division title for the Dust Devils (21-16, 43-32), who became the first team to win both halves in a season since the league changed formats before last season.
"Obviously it feels good to win the half," said Dust Devils manager Freddie Ocasio. "But the important thing is the players are playing with energy again and winning games going into the playoffs."
Ocasio had spoken with the team before Thursday's game about coming out flat in Wednesdays' shut out loss. The offense has responded in the last two games.
Simon's long ball scored Jaron Shepherd, who legged out a double to lead off the inning. It was Simon's fifth home run of the season and his second at Gesa Stadium. The two runs were charged to Volcanoes relief pitcher Stephen Shackleford, who had just entered the game in relief of starting pitcher Paul Davis.
Davis was solid in his second Northwest League start, striking out five with no walks over six innings of work. The right-hander from Florida had retired the last 14 batters he faced in the game before he was replaced by Shackleford.
Davis' only mistake came in the second-inning when Tri-City outfielder Juan Crousset his third home run of the season, a solo-shot directly down the right field line. It gave the Dust Devils a 1-0 lead, the first time this series they have scored first in a game.
Dust Devils starter Ben Alsup kept the score 1-0 until the seventh inning. With runners at first and second and two out, Alsup tried to pick-off Shawn Payne at first base. Umpire Travis Eggerts called Payne safe, upsetting the Dust Devils and causing a trio of infielders to approach him on the infield. John Eshleman, the runner at second base, caught Tri-City off guard by taking off for third. After reaching safely, the Dust Devils continued to argue, and Eshleman, seeing another opening, took off for home and avoided the tag of catcher Ryan Casteel to score and erase the shut out.
Ocasio brought in reliever Ken Roberts who finished the inning with a strikeout and pitched a scoreless eighth inning. Roberts (4-2) picked up the win and Will Rankin finished off the Volcanoes in the ninth inning to pick up his first save.
With the Dust Devils' win, the Yakima Bears were eliminated from playoff contention. The wildcard spot in the Eastern Division playoffs is now between the Boise Hawks and the Spokane Indians. The Hawks hold a one-game lead over the Indians heading into the final game of the season, but Spokane holds the tie-breaker between the two clubs.
The Dust Devils finish off their regular season schedule Saturday night as they take on the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (34-41, 18-19) for the final time. Chris Jensen (1-1, 3.26) will start for Tri-City against Reinier Roibal (1-4, 3.74). Fans will be treated to a season finale fireworks show following the game sponsored by U.S. Cellular. First pitch is at 7:15pm at Gesa Stadium.