AquaSox sharp in season tuneup

EVERETT — The Everett AquaSox have been in town for just three days, but already they’ve shown themselves to be the picture of efficiency.

The AquaSox made few mistakes as they beat the Everett Merchants 3-1 Wednesday evening in the 11th annual Everett Cup at Everett Memorial Stadium.

The exhibition contest between the professional AquaSox and the amateur Merchants serves annually as the Sox’s warm-up for the upcoming Northwest League season, and often the Sox look rough around the edges as they adjust to their new surroundings.

That wasn’t the case this year. The Sox’s pitchers allowed just four baserunners and didn’t walk anyone, and the defense behind them was flawless.

“It was a very crisp performance,” Sox manager Dave Valle said. “We caught everything out in the field, our catchers did a good job blocking some pitches that could have put us in a tough spot. It’s going to take a while for these guys because their body clocks are used to getting to the field at 7 (in the morning). Now it’s about changing their sleeping habits and getting used to the cooler climate, which I think actually is going to make them feel a lot stronger than in the desert heat.”

Sox starting pitcher Noel De La Cruz best represented the Sox’s efficiency. The right-hander tossed six scoreless innings and didn’t waste a pitch in the process — he needed just 56 pitches, 44 of which were strikes. He allowed just a pair of singles and struck out six to get credit for the win.

Meanwhile, the Merchants couldn’t match the Sox’s defense. They committed four errors, two of which played roles in Sox runs. The Sox eventually scored both those runs on wild pitches as the defensive miscues compounded.

“They didn’t give us any help,” Merchants coach Harold Pyatte said about the Sox’s efficiency. “But we have to be more offensive minded; we only got four hits. They got guys on base and when we made mistakes we paid the price. But even though we had four errors I thought we did OK.”

Luis Caballero went 2-for-4 while Jordan Cowan and Luke Guarnaccia added doubles for the Sox, who improved to 9-2 all-time in Everett Cup contests.

The Merchants received a good collective effort from their seven pitchers, who combined on a seven-hitter, striking out nine in their eight innings of work. Mountlake Terrace High School graduate Ryan Sells went 2-for-4 with a triple for the Merchants.

The Sox grabbed the lead in the bottom of the first inning. Cowan led off the inning by lining a double off the center-field wall and then Caballero followed with an RBI single to center, making it 1-0.

The Sox doubled their lead in the fifth. Bryan Brito dropped a perfect bunt down the third-base line, then advance to second when Merchants pitcher Brice Longanecker airmailed the throw down the left-field line. Brito stole third and scored on a wild pitch to increase the Sox’s advantage to 2-0.

It was a similar formula that led to the Sox’s third run in the sixth. Caballero singled to left, stole second, then advanced to third when Merchants catcher Mark Medalia’s throw sailed into center. Caballero later scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-0.

The Merchants spoiled the Sox’s shutout bid in the seventh. Sells led the inning off by ripping a triple off the right-field wall. He scored on John Naff’s groundout to get the Merchants on the scoreboard.

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