By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — The Eugene Emeralds were in a giving mood Tuesday night.
And the Everett AquaSox needed each and every one of those gifts.
Everett capitalized on four Eugene errors, and the Sox held on late to defeat the Emeralds 5-4 at Everett Memorial Stadium.
Errors, wild pitches and passed balls were major factors in a pair of early Everett rallies that staked the Sox to a 5-0 lead. The Emeralds inched closer as the game progressed, putting the tying and go-ahead runs on base in the eighth and the tying run on base in the ninth. But the Sox just managed to hold on for yet another close victory.
“It’s been kind of a theme this year,” said Sox manager Rob Mummau, whose team improved to 15-4, including 11-2 in games decided by two runs or fewer. “It’s pretty cool.”
Dylan Unsworth threw six solid innings to earn his third win of the season for Everett, and Alfredo Morales continued his hot streak by going 3-for-3. Morales, the reigning Northwest League Player of the Week, has 17 hits in his past 36 at bats.
Dane Phillips went 3-fot-5 with a homer to pace Eugene (9-9).
Eugene had a Jeckyll and Hyde game in the field. The Emeralds made several good defensive plays, but sprinkled in some egregious blunders. As a result, just one of Everett’s runs was earned.
It began from the start as the Sox jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first, with a large dose of help from Eugene’s defense. One run was in, courtesy of Taylor Ard’s RBI single, when Patrick Kivlehan sent a pop down the right-field line that should have been the third out. However, right fielder Corey Adamson, after a long run, dropped the ball. David Villasuso scored on the play and Kivlehan, who ended up on third, came home when Morales followed by rolling a single up the middle.
The Emeralds were in a giving mood again in the fourth. After Kivlehan led off with a double, he came around on a wild pitch and a passed ball. Morales later scored from second when second baseman River Stevens couldn’t handle Ketel Marte’s grounder as the Sox went ahead 5-0.
“We scored a few runs on some errors,” Mummau said. “The right fielder dropped the ball and Villasuso never stopped running, scoring from first base. That was big, getting three runs there in the first inning, and we kind of held on.”
A big reason Everett held on was the pitching of Unsworth. Unsworth had one blip in the fifth when his control deserted him. Otherwise the right-hander from South Africa was on cruise control. Working fast and using a repitoire based around guile rather than power, Unsworth allowed just two runs on three hits and four walks, striking out six.
“I feel great,” Unsworth said. “The walks, that happens. But otherwise I felt great tonight. I just wanted to give my team a chance to win, throw strikes and get outs. That’s the game of baseball.”
Said Mummau: “That’s his game. He’s not a guy who’s going to blow your doors off or wow you on the radar gun. But he commands three pitches and keeps the ball down.”
Unsworth breezed through the first four innings, working fast and painting corners. However, his control disappeared in the fifth and the Emeralds took advantage. Unsworth walked the bases loaded with one out, then Adamson drove in one run with a single and Alberth Martinez drove in another with a fielder’s choice. Further damage was averted when center fielder Mike Faulkner ran down Phillips’ drive to deep center with his back to the plate.
The Emeralds threatened again in the eighth. Phillips launched a line-drive homer to right to cut Everett’s lead to two. Eugene then loaded the bases, with reliever Oliver Garcia walking the first batter he faced and going to a two-ball count on Ronnie Richardson. Garcia’s third pitch looked inside, but was called a strike, and he then went on to record the strikeout and end the threat. Eugene scored one more in the ninth on Phillips’ RBI single before Garcia finally closed it out.