Nelson Velazquez looked left. Then back at the umpire. Then he realized his team had won the Northwest League championship series, so he dropped his bat, raised his arms and joined the celebration.
You can understand Velazquez’s confusion. Who wins a league title on a walk-off balk?
That’s what happened Tuesday night when the Eugene Emeralds, a Class A short-season team, finished a three-game sweep of the Northwest League championship series with Spokane, an Indians affiliate.
Eugene, which is an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, trailed 2-1 going to the bottom of the ninth inning. The Emeralds had runners on the corners with two outs when Jake Slaughter was hit by a pitch. Andy Weber drew a walk that forced in the tying run. Velazquez stepped to the plate and the first pitch from Emmanuel Clase ... never came as Clase stumbled on the mound.
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It was a balk and Velazquez’s teammates poured out of the dugout to celebrate the 3-2 victory as Spokane catcher Isaias Quiroz put his hands on his head:
“This is my first season in pro ball and I’ve seen some crazy things, but this team battled from the beginning,” Eugene catcher Caleb Knight told MiLB.com. “And eventually, it was going to turn into some wins.”