EVERETT — The Everett AquaSox finished up the first half of the Northwest League season Monday in Boise before embarking for home and arriving at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Everett (20-18) concluded the trip with an 11-10 defeat Monday at Boise, but the AquaSox had already wrapped up the first-half North Division title the night before with a 5-1 win over the Hawks.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Everett manager Jose Moreno said. “We try to enjoy it when we win and the kids have done a real good job so far. That’s the reward they have now because they’ve been working so hard.”
It marks the first time since 2012 that the AquaSox have clinched the first-half title, and they will play in the North Division playoffs in September.
“That’s part of the development — trying to win at every level,” Moreno said. “When you go to the big leagues that’s something you have to do every day and try to help the team win.”
The Frogs have been successful on the strength of their pitching and defense. Everett has committed just 24 errors — 10 fewer than second-place Hillsboro — and leads the league with a .983 fielding percentage. That is still on pace to beat the league record of .977 set by Salem-Keizer in 2007.
Everett pitchers Orlando Razo (1-2, 3.31 ERA) and Jheyson Caraballo (4-1, 3.58 ERA) have been effective in their starting roles. Razo is tied for third and Caraballo is fifth in ERA among league starters. Closer Joey Gerber is tied for the league lead with six saves and has a 1.38 ERA.
Hoover heating up
Connor Hoover’s batting average bottomed out at .100 on July 7. Yet even as he struggled to get hits, Hoover’s on-base percentage never dipped below .372 because of his keen batting eye.
Hoover led the Arizona League in walks last year and is sixth among all Northwest League players with 16 despite playing in just 19 games.
“I think that’s just one of those gifts,” Hoover said. “I’ve had that (eye) since I was a kid and I know the strike zone.”
Lately the ball has started to drop in for Hoover. He’s hitting .357 in his last 10 games with three home runs and six RBI. He hit two home runs in one game for the first time in his professional career on Monday at Boise and is now slashing .241/.463/.416 with three homers and eight RBI on the season.
The Mariners selected Hoover in the 21st round in 2017 from Division II North Georgia. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Hoover was lightly recruited out of high school and excelled at North Georgia where he hit 18 home runs as a junior in 2017.
“I think that was the best decision I made in my entire life,” he said of going to North Georgia. “They made me the player I am today. They changed my swing and made my swing to where it would play at upper levels and where I could hit velocity. They made it so I could adjust, and have some more power in my swing (despite) being a little bit smaller than other guys.”
Defense remains his primary focus despite his recent success at the plate. Hoover has played both second base and shortstop for Everett this season and was a three-year starting shortstop at North Georgia.
“I take more pride in my defense,” Hoover said. “I think saving runs in the infield should be priority No. 1.”
Stowers continues to mash
Josh Stowers, the Mariners’ second-round pick out of Louisville, entered Tuesday’s game with a seven-game hitting streak and has hit safely in 10 of his last 11 contests.
In his last 10 games, Stowers is hitting an even .400 with three home runs, three doubles, 12 RBI and has walked seven times with five strikeouts.
Stowers is now slashing .289/.396/.914 with four homers, 20 RBI and seven doubles in 24 games.
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