AquaSox seeing a bit of progress

EVERETT — The Everett AquaSox’s just-completed, eight-game road trip might not have gone exactly the way they would have liked. However, it represented progress.

Everett won just three of eight games on the trip, which included three games against the Tri-City Dust Devils and five against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. However, the 3-5 record was an improvement upon the team’s opening home series, and with a little better luck in the late innings the Sox could have returned with a winning road trip.

“There were some good things, there were some bad things, there were some difficult things to deal with,” Everett manager Dave Valle said.

Everett went into the trip, which matches its longest of the season, off a rough five-game home series in which the Sox struggled offensively. Everett managed just 12 runs during the season-opening series against the Hillsboro Hops, an average of 2.4 per game, as the Sox went 1-4.

But after two more punchless games at Tri-City, in which Everett scored just once in each game, the Sox busted out by putting 11 on the board in an 11-5 victory over the Dust Devils last Friday. Everett scored 30 runs in the final six games of the road trip, an average of 5.0 per contest.

Leading the way was outfielder Phillips Castillo. The 20-year-old returner from last season went 11-for-31 (.355) with five doubles, two home runs and 10 RBI during the trip. Valle also praised the offensive performances of outfielder Austin Cousino (.343 on base percentage, seven runs, four stolen bases) and catcher Kyle Petty (.292).

“We had Lee May Jr. with us, (the Seattle Mariners’) minor-league hitting coordinator, and we really started seeing some better at bats from the players, one through nine,” Valle said. “We’re starting to make that progress, starting to get the guys thinking a little bit better when they step into the batters box about what their strategy is going forward. We saw that happening.”

The problem, however, was holding onto leads. The Sox lost twice to Salem-Keizer in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The Volcanoes scored twice in the bottom of the ninth in a 3-2 victory last Saturday, then got a walk-off three-run home run from Shilo McCall in a 5-4 victory Wednesday in the series finale. Salem-Keizer also tied it in the bottom of the ninth and nearly came back in the bottom of the 13th in Everett’s 6-5 victory Tuesday.

“Any time you lose in a walk-off fashion it kind of stings, especially when you felt like you had it in your hands,” Valle said. “I’ve been behind the plate many times when it’s happened to me, so I’ve been there before and you never like to have that situation happen.

“But overall our pitching has been outstanding,” Valle added. “Our starters kept us in the ballgames, and our relievers did dome outstanding jobs.”

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