EVERETT — Order was restored to the Everett baseball universe Wednesday night.
The Everett AquaSox reclaimed the Everett Cup when they defeated the Everett Merchants 10-5 in the annual exhibition contest at Everett Memorial Stadium.
The Sox used a six-run third inning to overcome an e
arly deficit in the eighth playing of the Everett Cup, which pits the professional AquaSox against the amateur Merchants. The game is part of the AquaSox’s preparations for the start of their Northwest League season, which begins Friday on the road at Tri-City. The AquaSox lead the series 6-2 all-time.
A year ago, the Merchants, a Pacific International League team comprised primarily of locally-based community college players, upset the Sox 10-5 in a game that was never really close.
But Wednesday, the Sox re-established their rightful position of superiority, thanks primarily to their offense. The Sox pounded out 10 hits and drew six walks. Five of those hits and two of the walks came consecutively in the third as the Sox turned a 3-1 deficit into a 7-3 lead.
“I thought they did well,” was Sox manager Scott Steinmann’s first impression of his team under game conditions. “Once the players got that one at-bat under their belts I thought they started to swing the bat well. Hopefully, we can take that into our season.”
Before a crowd of 884, James Wood and Danny Lopez each smacked a single and double to lead the Sox. Seven different Everett players drove in at least one run.
And Steinmann was happy to see the Sox get back on the winning side of the ledger against the Merchants.
“You always want to win every game, whether it’s an exhibition game or not,” Steinmann said. “You want to go out and try to win the ballgame. Last year, we walked a few guys and gave them some free runs. Tonight I think we made them earn things.”
The Everett Cup performance is not necessarily an indication of how the Sox’s season will unfold, however. Last year, the Sox went on to win their first league championship in 25 years, despite being beaten convincingly by their amateur brethren.
“Last year we inspired them,” Merchants coach Harold Pyatte said. “This year I think it carried over because they started to inspire us now.”
Donny Treat provided the biggest highlight for the Merchants, belting a pinch-hit solo home run to right on the first pitch he saw in the top of the seventh inning. Jake Robinett went 2-for-2 for the Merchants.
“I thought we took advantage early,” Pyatte said. “They made some errors and we took advantage of that. But I was always suspect with how our pitching would hold up, and it was evident. We issued six walks and we went to six 3-2 counts, and that’s bad. They were able to do what they get paid for, which is hit the fastball on 3-2 counts.”
The Sox trailed 3-1 going into the bottom of the third inning, committing four errors in the process. But they broke the game open in the bottom of the third by sending 10 men to the plate, seven of whom reached consecutively.
It began when Marcus Littlewood lined a one-out single to center. A walk followed by an RBI single by Wood, and another walk followed by another RBI single by Larry Gonzalez tied it at 3-3.
Rudy van Heydoorn then grounded a two-run double down the left-field line to give the Sox the lead. Lopez added an RBI single, Nathan Melendrez had an RBI groundout and just like that the Sox led 7-3. The score never got any closer.
Bennett Whitmore, slated to be the Sox’s No. 5 starter to begin the season, started and threw a four solid innings. The left-hander allowed three runs, but all were unearned as the Sox showed some defensive rust early, committing four errors in the first three innings. Whitmore walked two and struck out two.
The Sox defense settled down after that and the Merchants rarely threatened afterward. Jason Buursma earned the win with two scoreless innings of relief and Tim Griffin struck out the side to end it in the ninth.
Matt Cooper took the loss on the mound for the Merchants as he suffered the brunt of the Sox’s third-inning eruption.