By Nick Patterson Herald writer
EVERETT — For eight innings Sunday it was as if the Everett AquaSox were contestants on an episode of Let’s Make a Deal.
The Tri-City Dust Devils played the role of Monty Hall, repeatedly offering Everett prize after prize, only for the Sox to turn them down.
Then in the finale Sox finally picked their door, and when it was raised they found they’d hit the jackpot.
Everett rallied for two runs in the bottom of the ninth, with Corey Simpson’s RBI single giving the Sox a walk-off 4-3 victory at Everett Memorial Stadium.
It seemed as if the story of Sunday’s game would be Everett’s missed opportunities. Tri-City’s pitchers repeatedly pitched themselves into trouble because of wildness. But the Sox struggled to come up with a clutch hit, and Everett found itself trailing 3-2 going into the ninth — and staring at a game it let slip away.
But Austin Cousino’s leadoff double sparked a ninth-inning rally that made up for Everett’s earlier profligacy.
“It was nice to get over the hump because we’ve been struggling with runners left on base,” Cousino said. “Even against Boise (the previous five games), even though we won the series, we left a lot on base. So it was nice to see us finally get over that hump and finally plate some runs there in the ninth. We’ve been stringing together better at bats and we finally put it all together.”
Cousino finished 2-for-4 with two doubles for Everett (4-2 second half, 15-29 overall). Kody Kerski picked up the win with 11/3 innings of scoreless relief.
Shane Hoelscher went 2-for-4 with a double to lead Tri-City (2-4, 16-28).
It looked like Sunday’s game was going to be one the Sox were going to regret. Everett put eight runners on base in the first two innings, but was only able to bring one of them home. The Sox somehow had the first four batters of the game reach base, yet failed to score a run. Between the first, second and eighth innings Everett left eight runners on base, with just two runs to show for it.
But whereas everything went wrong for Everett in the first eight innings, it all went right for the Sox in the ninth.
It began when Cousino ripped a liner off the wall in right-center for a double, immediately putting the tying run in scoring position. Taylor Smart was charged with bunting Cousino over to third, but that proved unnecessary as a passed ball did the job, then another passed ball allowed Cousino to score standing up.
Smart ended up walking on an eight-pitch at bat, putting things into motion for Everett again. Kyle Petty followed by turning to bunt, but he popped up an inside pitch that seemed aimed at his head. Yet the ball looped down the first-base line, landed just in front of Tri-City pitcher Josh Michalec, and inexplicably had the right English spin on it for the ball to stay fair. The Dust Devils reacted in a panic, with the ball getting away at first and Smart heading to third.
“I think the boys want to fine (Petty) for the bunt because it was in the air for about three seconds and landed like an Easter egg on the grass,” Everett manager Dave Valle quipped. “But it worked. I told him I’ll pay his fine for him because he got it done.”
That brought Simpson to the plate, and he played the hero by hitting a sharp grounder between short and third on the first pitch he saw, ending the game.
Though he didn’t figure in the decision, Everett starting pitcher Ryan Yarbrough continued his successful routine at the start of his professional career.
Yarbrough, the Seattle Mariners’ fourth-round pick in this year’s draft out of Old Dominion University, went exactly three innings in each of his first five appearances with the Sox. That pattern held again Sunday as Everett continues to limit his innings following a busy college season in the spring. But the lanky left-hander was once again imperious. Yarbrough worked both sides of the plate and effectively mixed up a fastball in the low 90s, a big breaking pitch and a changeup to toss three scoreless frames. He allowed two weak singles, walked none and struck out five. He now has a strikeout/walk ratio of 24/2 in 18 innings with Everett.
“He’s a special young man,” said Valle, who added that the plan is to continue limiting Yarbrough to three innings per start. “He has a really good idea of what he’s doing out there, what he wants to do, and how to execute it. He’s given us nothing but quality outings.”
Tri-City reliever Logan Sawyer ended up hard done by the rest of the Dust Devils staff. Sawyer came in after two shaky innings by Joel Payamps and immediately shut the door, tossing five hitless innings. The right-hander retired the first 11 batters he faced and allowed just one walk while striking out five. He was in line for the win until the Sox rallied at the end.