EVERETT — It looked like Josh Hungerman was going to pull off the Houdini act.
Not so fast, said Taylor Ard.
The Everett AquaSox slugger smacked a bases-clearing double that proved the difference, and the Sox topped the Tri-City Dust Devils 10-7 in a topsy-turvy game at Everett Memorial Stadium.
The score was knotted 7-7 in the bottom of the eighth inning after the teams spent most of the game swapping the lead. The Sox seemed certain to grab the lead one more time after putting runners at second and third with nobody out. But Hungerman, Tri-City’s left-handed reliever with a big breaking ball, looked like he was going to escape after sandwiching two clutch strikeouts around a walk, then getting up 0-2 on Ard.
However, Ard flipped the script by belting the 0-2 pitch off the wall in right-center. All three baserunners scored to ultimately give Everett the victory.
“I got down 0-2, so at that point I was just trying to stay short, make sure to not chase any balls in the dirt or up high,” Ard said. “Luckily he hung a curveball up there that I was able to get a good piece of.
“That was really important,” Ard added about getting a run home in that situation. “It was late in a tie game and we have to score there to put that game away in nine innings. If he pitches out of that then the momentum’s in their dugout. They could have potentially come out and scored a run, held us and won that game. That’s a big moment.”
The Sox (19-7) also received big games from their Nos. 1 and 2 hitters, Jamodrick McGruder and Chris Taylor. McGruder reached base five times, going 3-for-3 with two walks. Taylor went 2-for-4, including a crucial two-run home run in the seventh that tied the score at 6-6. Between them they scored six times.
“They worked the counts well and got on base a lot tonight,” Everett manager Rob Mummau said of McGruder and Taylor. “They created some havoc there at the top of the order. They continue to do a great job for us.”
Oliver Garcia earned the win in relief for Everett, despite allowing Tri-City to tie it at 7-7 in the top of the eighth. Mario De Jesus, fresh off his brief promotion to High Desert of the high single-A California League, struck out both batters he faced to pick up his second save of the season.
The Sox also received some sterling play in the field, with both right fielder Alfredo Morales and center fielder Mike Faulkner making diving catches of line drives to rob the Dust Devils of hits.
Rosell Herrera slugged a grand slam home run and Jarod Berggren went 3-for-3 to pace Tri-City (13-13), which had won four straight and eight of its previous nine.
Everett was forced to play catch-up for much of the game. The big blow early in the game was delivered by Herrera. Everett led 3-2 when Sox starter Jose Valdivia got himself into trouble, loading the bases on two walks and a hit batter. Herrera unloaded them when he unloaded on a 2-0 pitch, sending a drive over the netting behind the fence in right-center for a grand slam, giving Tri-City a 6-3 lead.
The Sox got back within two in the fifth when Faulkner scored from second after Dust Devils pitcher T.J. Oakes’ pickoff attempt at first got away.
Then Everett retook the lead in the seventh. Taylor’s line drive to deep center bounced off the top of the fence and over for a two-run homer that tied the score. Then Morales plated the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly to right, making it 7-6.
Tri-City knotted it once again in the top of the eighth when Snohomish High School grad Derek Jones and Berggren hit back-to-back doubles to make it 7-7, setting the stage for Ard’s heroics in the bottom half of the inning.