AquaSox start season’s second half on high note

Everett misses out on its first chance to clinch a playoff spot, but the surging Sox are 11-5 over their past 16 games.

Isaiah Campbell

Isaiah Campbell

The Everett AquaSox missed their first chance to get into the postseason this year. However, thanks to the format of minor-league baseball, they get another chance starting now.

The first half of the Northwest League season concluded midway through last week’s six-game series at Spokane, with Everett falling short of earning a playoff spot. But the clock was set back to zero and the Sox get a second chance — this time hopefully without digging themselves into a deep hole.

Everett finished the first half of the season with a 31-34 record, which put the Sox in third place in the six-team league, 8.0 games behind the Eugene Emeralds. The first-half winner automatically earns a berth into the best-of-five championship series, where it will face the team that compiles the best record during the second half (if Eugene wins the second half as well, then the second playoff team will be the one with the next-best overall record).

Everett found itself behind the eight ball early on, as a six-game losing streak left the Sox in last place at 3-8, and the Sox fell as many as 10 games below .500 before rallying late in the half to surge into third.

But now Everett carries some momentum entering the second half of play. The Sox went 11-5 over their last 16 games of the first half, and Everett is off to a solid start to the second half by winning two of the final three in last week’s series at Spokane. The Sox are 2-1 in the second half, which ties them for first with Eugene and Vancouver.

One small setback is that Everett began the second half without one of its most productive hitters. Outfielder Spencer Packard was placed on the seven-day injured list last Friday because of a hamstring issue. Packard is batting .268 with nine home runs and 29 RBI in 54 games. His OPS of .843 leads the team among qualifiers.

Players of the week

Hitter: Mike Salvatore. The 25-year-old designated hitter, who was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the ninth round of the 2019 draft, spent the entire season on the injured list because of Tommy John surgery on his elbow (which has prevented him from playing shortstop) before being activated by the Sox on June 13. But he made his presence felt in Spokane in a big way, where in four appearances he slugged three home runs and drove in seven, highlighted by a two-homer night in last Thursday’s 6-5 defeat.

Pitcher: Isaiah Campbell. Everett manager Eric Farris insists Campbell isn’t the team’s closer, that the 24-year-old who was selected by Seattle in the second round in 2019 just happened to be scheduled to pitch on days that ended up with save situations. But it sure is working out for Campbell and the Sox as he racked up two more saves last week, making one-run leads in the bottom of the ninth inning hold up in both his outings. Campbell, who began the season in the starting rotation before missing time because of elbow soreness, now has saves in each of his past five appearances.

The week ahead

Everett spends its second consecutive week on the road when it heads to Eugene for a six-game series against the Emeralds, an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, beginning Tuesday. Eugene won the first half going away, finishing 4.5 games ahead of second-place Spokane. The Sox are 4-5 against the Emeralds this season.

Eugene is where the Giants have the majority of their top prospects stashed, including eight of their top 13 as determined by However, the top prospect on San Francisco’s list, shortstop Marco Luciano who’s rated as the eighth-best prospect in all of baseball, has been on the injured list since June 8 because of a strained lower back.

Yet the Emeralds have plenty who are playing well. On offense, third baseman Casey Schmitt (.299, 12 homers, 39 RBI) and first baseman Carter Aldrete (.280, 11 homers, 37 RBI) have been two of the league’s top sluggers. Pitching-wise, right-hander Ryan Murphy (2.90 ERA, 47 strikeouts in 31 innings) has been a standout while right-hander Nick Avila leads the league with 10 saves.

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