EVERETT — Times have been desperate for the Everett AquaSox. Struggling mightily in just about every aspect of the game, they needed a victory of any kind just to get themselves back on track.
So when Everett put itself in position to win, there was no way Matt Renfree was going to let the Sox lose, no matter how tight the situation.
Renfree pitched himself out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the ninth inning, and the Sox ended their misery by defeating the Spokane Indians 4-3 Friday night.
Before a packed house at Everett Memorial Stadium, Renfree struck out the final two batters of the game with the potential tying run on third base, ending Everett’s five-game losing streak.
“I did not want to have my team have to bat in the bottom of that ninth inning,” Renfree said. “I wanted to do everything humanly possible to get us off the field and into the locker room celebrating that victory as a team.”
It was a crucial result for the Sox. Everett was coming off a nightmare five-game series at Boise, where it was swept in ignominious fashion, and the Sox faced a formidable task on returning home in the form of a Spokane team with the best record in the Northwest League.
But apparently all that was needed was a little home cooking to turn Everett’s fortunes. Dennis Raben launched a homer into orbit, starting pitcher Walter Suriel struck out 10, and the Sox played error-free defense after committing 10 miscues in their previous two games.
“Attitude is what it’s all about and today we came to the field ready to play,” Everett manager Jose Moreno said.
But even with the improved play the Sox found themselves in danger of defeat. Renfree, forced to carry the relief load for an overworked bullpen, was in his fourth inning of work in the ninth when things began to break down. He struck out Kyle Higgins, only to have Higgins reach base on a wild pitch. Renfree then hit David Paisano, and after a sacrifice bunt, Jared Bolden was walked intentionally to load the bases.
Up stepped cleanup hitter Justin Pickett. With the crowd roaring with every pitch, Renfree responded by striking Pickett out on three pitches. Renfree then struck out Matt West to end the game. “It was definitely a roller-coaster ride,” Renfree said of the ninth.
“I have never witnessed anything like what happened in Boise,” Renfree added. “It wasn’t one thing, it was just everything. It’s hard to explain what happened, but we did a great job tonight of washing away those five games we lost and focusing on getting a key win.”
Renfree may have put on a show, but it was Suriel who impressed most on the mound. The right-hander mowed down the Spokane lineup for 51/3 innings, striking out 10 using a live fastball and a sharp-breaking slider to keep the Indians guessing.
“He was a consistent 90, 95 (mph), he had good sink and his slider was nasty,” Moreno said of Suriel. “He did a very good job.”
Luis Nunez continued his hot hitting for Everett (16-22), going 2-for-4 with two runs.
Bolden went 3-for-4 to lead Spokane (29-10), which has lost back-to-back games for just the second time this season.
Everett took the lead in the bottom of the third when Raben sent a ball into the stratosphere, clearing the netting above the right-center wall to give the Sox a 2-0 lead. The homer was Raben’s second of the season.
Spokane got one run back in the fifth when Zach Zaneski scored on Paisano’s groundout.
But Everett got it right back in the bottom of the inning, Manelik Pimentel singling home Nunez to make it 3-1.
The Sox tacked on an insurance run in the seventh, Nate Tenbrink walking with the bases loaded to force in a run and make it 4-1.
That run proved invaluable as Spokane rallied for two in the eighth. The Indians loaded the bases, and with two out Dennis Guinn doubled to left-center to make it a one-run game. However, Renfree recovered to strike out Zaneski and end the threat.