By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — Mike Zunino has done some special things since joining the Everett AquaSox two weeks ago. But it will be hard to top what he produced Saturday night.
Zunino led an improbable comeback as the Everett AquaSox stunned the Vancouver Canadians 7-6 in 10 innings in Northwest League baseball action at Everett Memorial Stadium.
Everett trailed 6-1 in the bottom of the ninth and was down to its final out. But the Sox somehow managed to get their star catcher to the plate with a chance to tie the game, and Zunino came through with a game-tying, three-run home run.
Then in the bottom of the 10th Jamodrick McGruder delivered the game-winning hit as Everett (3-2 second half, 31-12 overall) prevailed despite being completely overmatched through seven innings by Vancouver pitchers Roberto Osuna and Marcus Stroman.
Everett seemed dead and buried in the ninth, trailing by five and down to its last out. But singles by Mike Faulkner and McGruder loaded the bases. Then Ketel Marte hit what should have been the game-ending ball to second, but Vancouver second baseman Daniel Arcila let the ball get through him as two runs scored.
That brought Zunino to the plate. The Seattle Mariners’ first-round pick in this year’s draft came into the game batting .346 with four homers in 14 games. When given the chance to be the hero Saturday, Zunino showed why he was picked third overall. Vancouver brought reliever Zack Breault in to face Zunino, and Zunino launched a 1-1 pitch off the video screen in left-center to tie the score.
“It worked out perfect,” Everett manager Rob Mummau said. “We got the right guys on, then Mike delivered.
“He’s had a lot of big hits for us, but that was by far the biggest.”
Then in the 10th the Sox loaded the bases with two out to bring McGruder to the plate. McGruder lined a 2-1 pitch just over the outstretched glove of a leaping Arcila to end the game.
Everett’s unlikely comeback rendered a dominating performance by Osuna and Stroman, two of the best pitching prospects the Toronto Blue Jays’ minor-league system has to offer, a footnote. Monroe High School graduate Ian Parmley went 2-for-5 and scored two runs for the Canadians (3-3, 25-18).
Saturday’s contest was originally billed as a battle of the 17-year-old prodigies: Osuna versus Everett’s Victor Sanchez. Sanchez did his part, walking none and striking out eight during six strong innings only to be let down by his defense.
But it was Osuna who stole the show early. Osuna, making his Northwest League debut after dominating the rookie Appalachian League, was even better than advertised. The right-hander from Mexico faced 19 batters through five innings and just five put the ball in play. He finished with 13 strikeouts and one walk. Taylor Ard’s single in the fourth inning was the only hit Osuna allowed.
Osuna was immediately followed by Stroman. Stroman, a 5-foot-9 flamethrower who was selected 22nd in the first round of this year’s draft out of Duke University, allowed David Villasuso’s double off the center-field wall in the seventh, but nothing else. He struck out two.
For seven innings it was all Vancouver. The Canadians built a 5-0 lead, scoring twice in the second with the aid of second baseman Brock Hebert’s dropped pop-up, once in the third in part because of a misjudged long fly, and two more in the fifth on Nicholas Baligod’s two-run single.
The Sox didn’t get a whiff of a run until getting deeper into the Vancouver bullpen, and Everett got one on the board in the eighth immediately after Stroman departed, Zunino’s liner high off the wall in right-center scoring Marte all the way from first.
But any potential momentum seemed blunted in the top of the ninth when the Canadians scored again. Matt Newman led off with a fly to right that Richie Palase, who had an adventurous game in the field, initially lost in the dusky sky, then dropped for a three-base error. Newman scored on Jason Leblebijian’s single to center for what seemed like a meaningless insurance run.
But that wasn’t accounting for Zunino and the Sox.