EVERETT — The Everett AquaSox decided they needed to give the home fans at Everett Memorial Stadium a little ninth-inning excitement.
Then they settled down just in time to send the fans home happy.
The Sox just held on after nearly blowing a seemingly-secure lead, squeezing past the Vancouver Canadians 6-5 Tuesday night.
Everett led 6-1 going into the ninth and had the game’s final out in hand. But an unlikely error and a two-run double turned the game into a white knuckler before reliever Oliver Garcia finally nailed it down.
“It sure did get interesting,” Everett manager Rob Mummau said. “We had a couple walks in there. We were fortunate enough to come out with a win.”
Marcus Littlewood homered and scored three runs to lead Everett (9-3), which took a one-game lead over Vancouver (8-4) for first place in the Northwest League’s West Division.
The Sox also received an impressive performance from pitcher Victor Sanchez, who threw six strong innings to pick up the win.
Balbino Fuenmayor led Vancouver, going 2-for-5 with two RBI.
For eight innings the story of the game was Everett’s pitching. Sanchez turned in a mature performance that belied his 17 years. The bullish right-hander allowed one run on five hits and two walks. He also struck out eight, using both his breaking ball and his change-up to to great effect with two strikes.
“Sanchez was hitting his spots and had very good command of his pitches,” Sox catcher Carlton Tanabe said. “It’s amazing how he’s doing for how young he is. He has such a live arm.”
But it all nearly came to naught in the ninth. The Canadians loaded the bases with one out against Everett reliever Brandon Plotz. Plotz struck out Daniel Arcila for the second out, then got Nicholas Balogad to ground back to the mound for the apparent final out. However, Plotz’s soft toss to first sailed well over the head of first baseman Taylor Ard, allowing two runs to score.
Garcia was brought in to face Fuenmayor, Vancouver’s clean-up batter, and Fuenmayor greeted Garcia with a two-run single off the left-field wall to make it an unlikely one-run game.
But Garcia was able to strike out Matt Newman for the game’s final out to finally clinch Everett’s victory.
“Oh man, that was nerve-wracking,” Tanabe said.
“I wasn’t really concerned,” Tanabe added. “If you panic it just gets worse and things start to snowball. So we just needed to slow it down and stay relaxed.”
Garcia’s save was his third of the season.
The Canadians scratched out the game’s first run in the top of the first. Sanchez struck out the first two batters of the game, but Baligod, Fuenmayor and Newman hit consecutive singles, Newman driving home Baligod to give Vancouver a 1-0 advantage.
Everett surged ahead in the fourth. Jean Acevedo’s hit-and-run single to right scored Chris Taylor from second to tie it. Tanabe then thumped the left-field wall for an RBI double. Finally, Littlewood scored on a wild pitch, giving Everett a 3-1 lead.
Littlewood padded Everett’s lead when he sent a high solo homer onto the homer porch in right field, making it 4-1 with his team-leading third bomb of the season.
The Sox tacked on what proved to be crucial insurance in the eighth. Patrick Kivlehan sent an RBI triple off the center-field wall, and Alfredo Morales bounced an RBI single through a drawn-in infield to increase the lead to five.