The Everett AquaSox proved little more than a minor bump in the road.
Vancouver dispatched the Sox Wednesday night with all the difficulty of a highway lane change, ending Everett's season with an 11-4 victory in Game 2 of their Northwest League divisional playoff series.
Everett won both the North Division's first and second halves, and the Sox won eight of the 12 meetings between the teams during the regular season. But Vancouver is trying to become just the third team in league history to win three straight league championships, and the Canadians zoomed right past Everett by outscoring the Sox 16-5 in the two games. It was the second straight year Vancouver swept Everett in the first round of the playoffs.
"We got on the board early, and then just couldn't put up the zero the next inning," Everett manager Rob Mummau lamented. "But our kids battled hard all year. It stinks to end this way, but what are you going to do, that's baseball.
"Both teams were hyped up, if you can't be hyped up for this you shouldn't be playing. But they're a good team, they're well coached and they earned it."
Vancouver, bolstered by a boisterous contingent of fans who crossed the border and matched the home crowd at Everett Memorial Stadium for volume, also was buoyed by the convenient arrival of Mitch Nay. Nay didn't play a single game for the Canadians during the regular season. However, the 2012 Toronto Blue Jays first-round pick was called up from the rookie Appalachian League in time for the playoffs, and he delivered the big blow Wednesday as his towering three-run home run in the top of the fourth inning was the deflater.
Andy Fermin and Michael Reeves each added three hits for Vancouver, which advanced to face Boise in the league championship series. The Hawks swept Salem-Keizer in the other divisional series.
Austin Wilson did everything in his power to extend Everett's season, going 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles. But it wasn't near enough for the Sox.
Everett even trotted out its pitching ace Wednesday night, putting Lars Huijer, who went 8-2 and started the All-Star Game for the North Division, on the mound. However, Huijer was roughed up in his final start of the regular season, and his struggles continued Wednesday when he lasted just two innings, allowing five runs. He gave up just three hits, and three of the runs he allowed were unearned. But his trademark command was lacking as he tossed in a walk, a hit batter and a run-scoring wild pitch.
"It just wasn't coming out of his hand today as well today as it did most of the year," Mummau said. "But Lars is a great kid, he works his tail off. It was just one of those nights.
"I thought our team had a great year," Mummau added. "I think the kids got better and learned a lot. There was great chemistry on this team, I'm really proud of them, and I hope they take it into next year."
Everett actually got off to a perfect start, putting on a hit parade in the bottom of the first with five hits among the first six batters. Michael Faulkner and Jack Reinheimer led the inning off with back-to-back singles. With one out, Wilson lined a double to left-center to bring home the game's first run. Justin Seager and Christian Carmichael immediately followed with consecutive RBI singles as the Sox jumped out to a 3-0 lead.
But Everett's lead was short-lived. Vancouver immediately overturned the deficit in the top of the second. With the bases loaded and one out, Everett first baseman Kyle Petty slipped after fielding Ian Parmley's grounder and had no play as one run scored. Chaz Frank followed by fouling off five two-strike pitches before lining a two-run single to right to tie it. Fermin lined a sacrifice fly to center to give the Canadians the lead, then he came around to score on a stolen base, error and wild pitch as Vancouver found itself leading 5-3.
The Sox got back within one with one in the third, but the Canadians blew it open with another five-run inning in the fourth. The first run scored when pitcher Min-Sih Chen threw away Parmley's infield single, and the second came home on Fermin's soft single to left. That brought Nay to the plate, and he crushed a moonshot three-run shot to center to give Vancouver to put it beyond reach.
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