By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — The Everett AquaSox are out of their lull and back on top of the mountain.
Everett reclaimed sole possession of the top spot in the Northwest League as the Sox defeated the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes 6-1 Sunday afternoon at Everett Memorial Stadium.
Everett and Salem-Keizer came into the game tied for the league’s best record. But the Sox (17-7), who held the top spot most of the season before surrendering it temporarily to the Volcanoes (16-8), are once again alone atop the heap.
“You’re always going to have lows and highs throughout the season,” said Sox first baseman Justin Seager, who finished 3-for-4. “We’re trying to minimize the lows as much as possible, obviously. Hopefully we’re on the way back up and we’ll stay up there for a while.”
The Sox started the season 14-2 to announce their position as the league front-runners. But a recent four-game losing streak saw the Sox slip a game behind Salem-Keizer.
However, the Sox have now taken two straight from the Volcanoes to put their rough patch behind them.
“I think we’re past that,” Everett manager Rob Mummau said of the lull. “We’ll see tomorrow. You’re going to have ebbs and flows throughout the season. You just have to try and stay on that even keel throughout the season, not get too high or too low.”
The Sox also moved three games ahead of Vancouver in the North Division’s first-half standings after the Canadians fell 5-4 to Hillsboro in 19 innings Sunday. Fourteen games remain in the first half. The team that wins the first half earns a playoff berth.
Salem-Keizer, because it is in the South Division, is not competing with Everett for a playoff spot.
Rigoberto Garcia threw five-plus strong innings to earn the victory on the mound for Everett, improving his record to 4-0. The 19-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic breezed through five frames before finally giving up a run in the sixth. In 51/3 innings he allowed five hits, walked one and struck out seven.
“He was a solid,” Mummau said of Garcia. “He just came in and threw a lot of strikes with his fastball. He had his slider working pretty well, too. He can command that down in the zone pretty well. It’s great to see that from the young right-hander.”
Jose Valdivia and Aaron Brooks closed out the game with 22/3 innings of scoreless relief. Brooks, a Mountlake Terrace native, retired all five batters he faced to end the game. He struck out a pair.
DJ Peterson added two hits and Reggie Lawson chipped in with a key two-run triple for Everett.
Salem-Keizer starting pitcher Joe Kurrasch was effective, striking out seven in five innings. However, he was victimized by one rough inning that gave the Sox control of the game.
“It was a good game,” Seager said. “We’re starting to swing the bat pretty well one through nine. Hopefully we’ll get into a groove and keep on winning a couple games.”
Everett opened the scoring in the bottom of the fourth. Jack Reinheimer and Seager led off with back-to-back singles, putting runners at first and second with nobody out. Peterson followed by grounding a ball right to the bag at third. However, Salem-Keizer third baseman Ryan Truntland inexplicably failed to step on third, then threw the ball away at first, allowing Reinheimer to score.
That opened the floodgates. Lawson ripped a triple to the deepest part of the park in center, driving home two runs. Then Carlton Tanabe lined a single to right-center to score Lawson, giving Everett a 4-0 lead. That proved more than enough for Everett’s pitching staff.
Everett outfielders made a pair of spectacular diving stops in the span of three pitches. Center fielder Michael Faulkner sprinted to his left and laid out fully to snag Tyler Horan’s hard liner, robbing Horan of extra bases and ending the first inning. Then on the second pitch of the second inning, left fielder Phillips Castillo raced to his right to make a diving catch on Brian Ragira. … The middle of Salem-Keizer’s batting order Sunday was brand new. Truntland, Horan and Ragira, who occupied the three, four and five spots in the Volcanoes’ lineup, all just arrived from the San Francisco Giants’ affiliate in the rookie Arizona League and were making their Northwest League debuts.