When the Everett AquaSox clinched the Northwest League West Division’s first-half title, the celebrations were minor.
“There was a little bit (of reaction). The coaches sprayed a little beer on us, but that’s about it,” Sox catcher Marcus Littlewood said with a laugh. “We were excited, but we didn’t have very much of a celebration.”
Everett clinched first place with its 2-1 victory at Yakima on Friday, giving the Sox the title with three games to spare. Everett ended up 28-10 in the first half, finishing 31/2 games ahead of second-place Eugene.
The first-half title earned Everett a playoff berth. After the Sept. 1 regular-season finale at Boise, the Sox play a best-of-three series against the West Division’s second-half winner. The first game is on the road Sept. 3 and the final two games at Everett Memorial Stadium Sept. 4-5.
Although the Sox already have wrapped up a postseason spot, they don’t plan on resting on their laurels.
“We have a lot of work to do, by far,” Everett manager Rob Mummau said. “We’ve made a ton of mistakes, but we’ve had a lot of success, too. We’re just going to try and keep these guys going the right direction, keep them motivated, and hopefully we can have a good second half.”
That message seems to have sunk in with the players.
“You have to go out and play hard every single night,” Littlewood said. “Stats matter. So you can’t just take it easy from here on. We have to set our goal to win the second half as well.”
While the Sox returned home with a playoff berth in tow, they came home without one of the players most responsible for that accomplishment. Shortstop Chris Taylor was promoted to Clinton of the mid-Class A Midwest League.
Taylor departed ranking second in the league in batting average (.328), on-base percentage (.430) and runs scored (26), and fourth in slugging percentage (.474).
“He did a great job for us in the first half,” Mummau said. “He was second in the league in hitting and he played real good defense, so I’m really happy for him.”
The Sox also returned without infielder Jean Acevedo. Acevedo, who batted .250 in 20 games in part-time duty, retired and returned home to Venezuela while the Sox were on the road.
“He just felt like he needed to go home, so that was up to him,” Mummau said.
In their place are three new infielders. Keith Werman joined the team at the beginning of the just-completed eight-game road trip. Brock Hebert, the Seattle Mariners’ 14th-round pick this year out of Southeastern Louisiana University, and Richard Palase, Seattle’ 32nd rounder this year out of Lynchburg College, both arrived Tuesday from Pulaski of the rookie Appalachian League. Hebert batted .288 in 30 games with Pulaski while Palase, who also saw time in the outfield, batted .200 in 11 games.
One player who’s still on the roster is catcher Mike Zunino. Zunino, taken third overall in this year’s amateur draft, has ripped the league apart with a .378 batting average and four homers in 10 games and earned Northwest League Player of the Week honors. First-round picks have a history of short stays in Everett, but Zunino remains for the time being.
Nick Patterson, Herald writer