EVERETT — The AquaSox have regained their swagger — or so they hope — going into the All-Star break.
And it didn’t take just one comeback, but two, against the Northwest League North division’s first-half champion to recapture that confidence.
Robert Perez Jr.’s bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the 10th sealed a 7-6 victory over Spokane on Saturday at Funko Field, as Everett claimed the three-game set against the Indians after dropping six straight entering the series.
“This was a really good win for us because we competed tonight,” manager Louis Boyd said. “We got a sense yesterday that the energy level on the team was a little low. (We) hadn’t had a day off in a long time, everyone senses the All-Star break is coming up, so guys kind of shut it down mentally. We kind of got after them today in the locker room and told them that no matter what the results were, we were going to come with energy today and we were going to compete tonight. And by that comeback and scoring two in the 10th inning, that proves that we did that. I’m beyond happy.”
That fire came in handy on Sunday.
After Alexander Ovalles’ sacrifice fly put the Indians up 6-5 in the top of the 10th, Connor Hoover kicked things off in the bottom of the inning with a towering double to right-center field. Hoover stared at the ball as he left the box like he thought it might leave the yard, but it clipped the wall and fell into play, forcing Hoover to slide into second and the runner at second base to start the inning, Cesar Izturis Jr., to stop at third.
Izturis eventually scored after Marysville native Trent Tingelstad reached on an error by Indians’ third baseman Cristian Inoa. Cade Marlowe was intentionally walked to load the bases and Perez saw four consecutive balls out of the strike zone whizz by him after lunging at a curveball in the dirt for strike one to walk it off.
“When he goes up to the plate with a clear plan and he’s disciplined with that plan, success happens,” Boyd said. “A lot of people want to go up there and get the walkoff hit, the walkoff homer and he’s totally OK with taking a ball in a 3-1 advantage count and winning the game with a walk. And that is awesome.”
Everett took a 2-0 lead in the fifth after Brennon Kaleiwahea’s solo homer and Patrick Frick’s RBI double.
But Spokane responded with a flurry, scoring five runs in the fifth on Blaine Crim’s RBI single, Ovalles’ RBI double and Jonah McReynolds’ RBI double.
The AquaSox cut the lead to two in the seventh on Frick’s second RBI double of the game, then Hoover tied the game on a rather odd play.
The AquaSox second baseman singled in Frick on a chopper up the middle, then noticed no one was covering the bag after Indians’ center fielder Starling Joseph’s throw missed the cutoff man and sped toward second. Indians catcher Francisco Ventura fielded the ball and whipped a throw to second base, but it was wide and with Joseph already near the infield after fielding the grounder, the ball trickled all the way to the outfield wall.
Hoover easily scored to tie the game.
“I was like, there was no way we could lose that game,” Hoover said he remembers thinking at the time. “We had all the momentum and the bats had started to come alive a little bit.”
After recording just one hit in a 7-1 loss on Saturday, the AquaSox erupted for 13 on Sunday.
Everett starter Kelvin Nunez didn’t factor into the decision but was lights-out in five innings, allowing one hit with four strikeouts and two walks. It was Nunez’s second scoreless outing of the season and the least amount of hits allowed in any of his appearances this season.
Some mechanical tweaks added some zip to his fastball, which was sitting at 88-to-90 mph Sunday.
“He had a little bit extra on his fastball,” said Kaleiwahea, who caught Nunez. “He just had good stuff today.”
AquaSox reliever Travis Kuhn (3-1) picked up the win after allowing one run in the 10th.
Nick Starr (1-2) took the loss after allowing two runs without recording an out in the bottom of the frame.