EVERETT — The Everett AquaSox picked up at the start of the second half of the Northwest League right where they left off at the end of the first.
The West Division’s first-half champions opened the second half in what’s become their trademark style, defeating the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes 3-2 Tuesday night at Everett Memorial Stadium.
It was yet another one-run victory for the Sox, who comfortably won the first half title in large part because of their proficiency in close games. Everett is now 17-5 in games decided by two runs or fewer.
“It was good to get a win here in the first game of the second half,” Everett manager Rob Mummau said. “It was close all the way through, but our guys battled it out. We’ve had a bunch of close games throughout the year, so this is one more to add on.”
This time around it was the legs of Mike Zunino combined with a Salem-Keizer miscue that led to the decisive run as the Sox snapped a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Everett (1-0 second half, 29-10 overall) also received a solid performance from its pitchers. Starter Ambioris Hidalgo threw six scoreless innings, and Blake Hauser tossed a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his first save as a professional.
Ketel Marte and Janelfry Zorilla each had two hits to pace Everett’s offense.
Chuckie Jones and Dashenko Ricardo both went 2-for-4 to lead Salem-Keizer (0-1, 13-26).
Everett had just surrendered a 2-0 lead in the seventh when they regained it in the eighth. Zunino led off the inning with a walk, then before another pitch was thrown, Salem-Keizer reliever Keith Bilodeau’s pickoff attempt skipped past first baseman Joe Rapp and rolled into the Volcanoes’ bullpen. Zunino shifted into high gear and motored around to third.
Taylor Ard sent a fly to medium left. Left fielder Kentrell Hill’s throw home was accurate, but not in time to get a sliding Zunino as the Sox went ahead 3-2.
“He doesn’t move bad for a big guy who’s a catcher — I’ll call it deceptively fast,” Mummau said with a grin.
Hidalgo had his best outing since joining the Sox in late June. The right-hander had runners on base throughout his six innings, allowing seven hits and two walks. However, none of those runners scored as Hidalgo did a good job pitching out of jams. He also received good defensive support with the Sox turning three double plays behind him.
“That was probably Hidalgo’s best game I’ve seen him pitch in a year-and-a-half, and that’s real encouraging,” said Mummau, who had Hidalgo when he managed Pulaski of the rookie Appalachian League last year. “He had better depth to his curveball and he really attacked the bottom half of the zone. It looked like he had a lot of confidence in himself.”
Salem-Keizer starter Kendry Flores also pitched well. The righty was strong early in his outing, but seemed to tire late in his 51/3 innings. He ended up allowing two runs on six hits and one walk while striking out five.
Flores dominated the Sox through three innings, and the Volcanoes put a series of runners on base against Hidalgo during that stretch. But Hidalgo worked his way out of jams, and the Sox broke the ice in the fourth. Marte grounded a single to left, stole second, advanced to third on Zunino’s swinging bunt, then scored when Patrick Kivlehan lined a two-out, two-strike pitch to center to give the Sox a 1-0 lead.
Everett doubled its lead in the sixth. Marte led off the inning by blooping a double down the left-field line. Zunino followed with a high fly to center that would have been an out in most ballparks. But the ball hit the wall where it cuts sharply in as it heads from center to right, just eluding a leaping Jones. Marte scored on the double to make it 2-0.
Salem-Keizer tied it in the seventh. With one out Ricado singled and Ryan Jones was hit by a pitch. Then with two outs, Sox reliever Oliver Garcia uncorked a wild pitch to put both runners in scoring position for Matt Duffy, who lined a single to right-center to bring in both runners.