EVERETT — That’s more like it for Lars Huijer.
The Everett AquaSox starting pitcher returned to his usual sparkling form, tossing six strong innings to lead the Sox to a 6-2 victory over the Eugene Emeralds on Sunday afternoon at Everett Memorial Stadium.
Huijer, the ace of Everett’s staff, was roughed up in his previous outing last Monday at Salem-Keizer. But the 19-year-old right-hander from the Netherlands was back to form Sunday. In six innings he allowed two runs on just two hits and two walks, striking out five. He picked up the win to improve to 8-1 and catch Salem-Keizer’s Andrew Leenhouts for the Northwest League lead in wins.
“His last time out he wasn’t quite himself like he’s been all year,” Everett manager Rob Mummau said of Huijer. “Every pitcher is going to go through that, but he did a nice job of bouncing back after that start and he was real solid today.”
Everett (11-13 second half, 34-28 overall) also sparked itself offensively on the basepaths, stealing seven bases. Christian Carmichael and Lonnie Kauppila added homers for the Sox.
Chase Jensen homered for Eugene (11-13, 24-38), which was limited to three hits.
Huijer was the league’s hottest pitcher prior to his last start at Salem-Keizer. At that point he had a scoreless streak of 252/3 innings which saw his ERA shrink to a microscopic 1.49. His efforts earned him the start for the North in the league’s All-Star Game. But Huijer was off his game in his first start after the All-Star break, giving up 11 hits and five runs in 41/3 innings against Salem-Keizer.
However, he was back to his normal self Sunday as he kept Eugene’s offense contained.
“The first two innings I was behind in the count a lot, I threw a lot of balls,” Huijer said. “But after that I felt good. I got ahead in the count and just pounded the strike zone, and they chased the changeup. It felt good.
“I was a lot better at getting ahead in the count today than in my last outing,” Huijer added. “I just felt better today, I was not up in the zone, I was down in the zone, so that’s what I did better.”
The eight wins are the most by an Everett pitcher since Anthony Fernandez and Chris Sorce each had eight for Everett’s Northwest League championship team in 2010. The AquaSox franchise record for wins in a season is 10 by Craig Anderson in 1999. If he stays on rotation Huijer would make two more regular season starts.
Huijer received big-time assistance from Everett’s exploits on the bases. Everett was a perfect seven-for-seven on stolen-base attempts. That included two successfully executed double steals, giving Everett its first and fourth runs of the game. Jack Reinheimer, Chantz Mack and Kyle Petty each had two of the steals.
“(Baserunning wasn’t an emphasis) going into the game,” Mummau said. “We just read a couple situations pretty well, first-and-third situations, and we were just trying to be a little more aggressive on the bases and generate some runs.”
Eugene actually struck first in the top of the second when Jensen blasted a solo homer off the video board in left-center, staking the Emeralds to a 1-0 lead.
But it was all Everett after that. The AquaSox quickly leapfrogged the Emeralds in the bottom half of the second. With runners at the corners and two out, Bryan Brito broke for second. Petty headed home when Eugene catcher Michael Miller threw to second, and he crossed safely when the throw sailed into the outfield, Brito taking third on the error. Brito then scored when Phillips Castillo grounded a single up the middle, giving the Sox a 2-1 lead.
Carmichael gave the Sox another run in the fourth when he clubbed a solo shot over the scoreboard in right-center, making it 3-1.
Everett then gave itself some breathing room in the fifth. The Sox executed their second double steal of the game, with Reinheimer scoring on the back end. Then Petty scored on first baseman Marcus Davis’ throwing error, giving Everett a four-run cushion.
Eugene got another run off Huijer in the sixth when Donovan Tate smacked an RBI double off the base of the wall in center to make it 5-2. However, Huijer came back and got two outs on full-count pitches to get out of the inning without any more damage.
Everett outfielder Austin Wilson returned to the lineup Sunday, serving as the designated hitter. Wilson sat out the previous three games because of strain to his gluteus maximus muscle, suffered during the team’s three-game series in Vancouver. … Sox outfielder Ian Miller sat out of the second straight game. Miller strained a hamstring muscle during Friday’s game against Eugene and had to be removed.