EVERETT — Something had to give.
Everett AquaSox pitcher Rusty Shellhorn and Vancouver Canadians batter Kellen Sweeney had battled to a standstill, with 12 pitches insufficient to resolve the at-bat.
Pitch No. 13 proved unlucky for both Shellhorn and the Sox.
Sweeney ended an epic at-bat by belting a tiebreaking two-run home run, and the Canadians went on to beat the Sox 4-3 in Northwest League baseball action Friday night at Everett Memorial Stadium.
The score was tied 2-2 in the top of the fifth inning when Sweeney came to bat with one on and two out. Shellhorn quickly got ahead 1-2. Sweeney then proceeded to foul off seven two-strike pitches, including six straight with the count full. Daniel Arcila, who was on first base and taking off on every full-count pitch, was huffing and puffing after being sent repeatedly back to first.
The 13th pitch was a fastball, and Sweeney launched the ball over the scoreboard in right-center to claim victory in the battle of wills.
“The last pitch he threw he shook and I knew he was going to go to a fastball, just knowing how some pitchers think,” Sweeney said. “I just got that pitch and hit it well.
“I knew he wasn’t trying to walk me or anything,” Sweeney added. “I was kind of expecting him to throw me a curveball during one of those pitches, but he kept throwing me fastballs. I was feeling bad for our guy at first base because he kept running on the 3-2 count. But I just got a pitch and took advantage of it.”
Everett manager Rob Mummau knew the longer the at-bat lasted, the more the odds tilted in Sweeney’s direction.
“Typically the more pitches you see, the more your timing gets better,” Mummau said. “I don’t know how many pitches he saw, but it was a bunch, and he did a good job.”
Sweeney’s effort helped the Canadians (3-2 second half, 25-17 overall) win a game they probably shouldn’t have. Everett out-hit Vancouver 14-3, and the Sox pitchers struck out 15 Canadian batters. However, Everett aided Vancouver’s cause by committing three errors, which made all four of Vancouver’s runs unearned. The Sox also left 10 runners on base and had three others thrown out at home.
“We squandered some chances on the bases, and our defense wasn’t really sharp tonight,” Mummau said. “We had some costly errors, but that was one of the first times we’ve done that all year.”
Mike Zunino and Taylor Ard each went 3-for-5 to lead Everett (2-2, 30-12). The Sox also received quality pitching from Shellhorn, Grady Wood and Brandon Plotz. Shellhorn struck out eight in 42/3 innings, and Wood struck out six in 31/3, including the first five batters he faced. Wood and Plotz combined to retire the final 13 Vancouver batters in order.
Everett opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning. Brock Hebert led off with a walk, advanced to second on a groundout, then scored when Zunino lined a double into the left-field corner, staking the Sox to a 1-0 lead.
Vancouver went ahead in the third thanks to two unearned runs. Carlos Ramirez, who reached on third baseman Patrick Kivlehan’s throwing error, eventually scored on Tucker Frowley’s single. Then, with two out, shortstop Ketel Marte had a bouncer ping off his glove to load the bases, and Frowley scored when the next pitch went to the backstop, giving the Canadians a 2-1 lead.
The Sox tied the game in the fourth. Back-to-back singles by Zunino and Ard were followed by Kivlehan’s double that just eluded the reach of right fielder Nicholas Baligod.
After Sweeney gave Vancouver the lead in the fifth, Everett got one back in the sixth on Hebert’s RBI single. However, the Sox had two runners thrown out at home in the inning. Alfredo Morales was caught trying to score on a pitch to the backstop, and Janelfry Zorrilla was thrown out trying to score after Hebert got caught in a rundown between first and second.
Everett had a chance to tie the game in the eighth, but Jamodrick McGruder was gunned down at the plate by Matt Newman trying to score from second on Mike Faulkner’s single to left.