By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — The Everett AquaSox wasted little time settling into their new home.
One day after arriving in Everett for the 2015 Northwest League season, the Sox struck early and often as they routed the Everett Merchants 7-0 in the 12th annual Everett Cup exhibition game, held Tuesday night at Everett Memorial Stadium.
Two of the Sox’s first four batters homered, and the Sox led by five just two innings into the contest, which serves as the Sox’s annual warm-up for their season. The Sox’s season officially begins Thursday when they host the Eugene Emeralds in their opener.
If Tuesday’s contest is any indication, the Sox should hit the ground running. The Sox had 11 base hits, six of which went for extra bases, and five Sox pitchers combined on a five-hit shutout.
“I think it was good,” Sox manager Rob Mummau said about his team’s first outing. “I thought our pitchers looked crisp, they threw strikes and they all competed well. No complaints here.
“We banged some balls off the wall today, and I think we’ll be fine.”
Luis Liberato and Corey Simpson homered and Jordan Cowan went 3-for-4 for the Sox, who won their fifth straight Everett Cup contest. The Sox improved to 10-2 all-time in the series.
Sox starting pitcher Lane Ratliff had an efficient outing. The left-hander tossed five scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and one walk. The sixth-round pick in the 2014 amateur draft finished with four strikeouts as he was credited with the win.
“He’ll be one of our starters,” Mummau said of Ratliff. “He goes fastball, curveball and change, he has a really good curveball, and I like the fact he’s very aggressive. He works fast and throws strikes.”
Marysville Pilchuck High School graduate Ty Holm led the Pacific International League’s Merchants, going 3-for-4 with a double. He had three of the Merchants’ five hits.
“That was our toughest loss against the AquaSox,” said Merchants coach Harold Pyatte, whose team stayed within three runs of the Sox in each of the past three Everett Cup contests. “It was lopsided, but I think that just goes to show they’re professional hitters, they get paid for that. They hit two home runs tonight in the first inning, all on fastballs. But we played pretty good ball. We’re going to do well, we’re amateurs and they’re pros, and we just appreciate them playing us. Past years we played them a little tougher, but they have a great ball club this year and I think they’re going to make a lot of noise in their league.”
The Sox powered themselves to an early lead. In the bottom of the first Liberato lofted a fly to right-center that just cleared the wall for a two-run shot. Then two batters later Simpson, who led the Sox in homers last season, lined a shot over the scoreboard in right-center. The homers staked the Sox to an immediate 3-0 advantage.
The Sox downsized from homers to doubles in the bottom of the second to increase their lead to 5-0. P.J. Jones laced a double to center to drive home the first run, and then after Cowan legged out a double Liberato brought home another run with a groundout to first. There was no way back for the Merchants after that.
“We got a couple home runs from Libby and Simpson, so I think we’ll have a really good lineup,” Mummau said about his team’s early show of pop. “We look like we’ll have a really good team this year.”
The Sox tacked on one more in both the fifth and sixth. Alex Jackson led the fifth off by skying a triple off the center-field wall, later scoring on Arturo Nieto’s sacrifice fly to deep right. Then in the sixth Rafael Fernandez doubled off the right-center wall to bring Drew Jackson home from second and make it 7-0.
The Merchants never really had a quality scoring opportunity in the game. Their best chances at getting on the scoreboard came in the sixth and eighth. Both times Holm led off the inning with a hit and reached third with two out, but wound up stranded. Those were the only times the Merchants advanced a runner as far as third.