The Everett AquaSox opened their season this past week by going 4-2 in a six-game road series against the Hillsboro Hops.
The series included the AquaSox debuts for several highly regarded prospects, a pair of extra-inning Everett victories and plenty of superb pitching.
Here is The Herald’s weekly AquaSox update:
SOX RALLY FOR DRAMATIC COMEBACK WIN
With the AquaSox trailing 5-3 in the top of the ninth, Connor Hoover launched a three-run opposite-field home run over the left-field fence to give Everett a one-run lead. Hillsboro then responded with a game-tying solo homer in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings.
The AquaSox answered right back in the top of the 10th, scoring two runs to regain the lead. Julio Rodriguez, considered the No. 3 overall prospect by Baseball America, grounded a hard single up the middle to drive in Zach DeLoach for the go-ahead run. Rodriguez then stole second, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a sacrifice fly by Tyler Keenan to give Everett an 8-6 lead.
Hillsboro plated one run in the bottom of the 10th and put the tying run on second base with one out, but AquaSox reliever Kyle Hill retired the next two batters to seal the victory.
It was the second one-run extra-inning win for Everett in the series. On Wednesday, Bellingham native Austin Shenton scored the winning run on a passed ball with two outs in the top of the 11th to give the AquaSox a 3-2 victory.
EVERETT’S TALENTED PITCHING SHINES
The AquaSox currently have six of the Seattle Mariners’ top eight pitching prospects on their roster, according to MLB.com. And this past week, Everett’s ultra-talented pitching staff showed why it is so highly regarded.
The AquaSox posted a 2.95 earned-run average, which was a full run better than the next-closest team in the six-team High-A West. Everett pitchers combined for 79 strikeouts and just 16 walks, while recording a 0.98 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) and limiting opposing hitters to a .188 batting average.
Brandon Williamson, a 2019 second-round draft pick and the fifth-ranked pitcher in the Mariners’ farm system, had a dazzling season debut Saturday. The 6-foot-6 left-hander struck out nine of the 15 batters he faced while tossing four scoreless innings. He allowed just two hits and no walks.
Tim Elliott, a 2019 fourth-round draft pick and the Mariners’ 15th-ranked pitching prospect, also had an impressive season debut. Elliott struck out eight of the 13 batters he faced while pitching 3 2/3 innings in Tuesday’s season opener. He allowed one hit on a solo homer and one walk.
Emerson Hancock, the Mariners’ top-ranked pitching prospect, threw two scoreless innings in his minor league debut Thursday. He struck out three batters, while allowing no hits and one walk. Hancock, the No. 6 overall pick in last year’s draft, is ranked by MLB.com as the No. 6 right-handed pitching prospect and the No. 26 overall prospect.
Isaiah Campbell, a 2019 second-round draft pick and the Mariners’ seventh-ranked pitching prospect, also had a nice minor league debut. He pitched four innings of relief in Sunday’s win, allowing one unearned run and two hits. He struck out four batters and walked two.
Brendan McGuigan, Fred Villarreal and David Ellingson were among the other AquaSox pitchers who performed well in the opening series. The trio of relievers combined to toss 11 scoreless innings, while allowing a total of just two hits. They combined for 15 strikeouts and just two walks.
Rodriguez, one of the top prospects in baseball, batted 7-for-25 with one triple and two doubles in the opening series. The 20-year-old phenom outfielder went just 1-for-9 over the first two games, but recovered to go 6-for-16 over the last four. He played a key role in Sunday’s extra-inning win, driving in the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th before stealing second and coming around to score an insurance run that ended up being the difference in the game. Though he isn’t necessarily known for his speed, Rodriguez is a perfect 3 for 3 on stolen-base attempts in the young season.
ROSA OFF TO HOT START
Joseph Rosa started just three of the six games in the opening series, but is off to a hot start at the plate. He went 5-for-11 with three doubles and two walks and has reached base safely in seven of his 13 plate appearances. The 24-year-old, who is entering his sixth minor league season, leads the AquaSox in batting average (.455), on-base percentage (.538) and slugging percentage (.727).
The AquaSox host the Tri-City Dust Devils in their home opener at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday at Funko Field. It marks the beginning of a six-game homestand against Tri-City that runs through Sunday. After that, the Sox embark on a 12-game road trip.