The Everett AquaSox and Vancouver Canadians entered this past week’s six-game series as part of a three-way tie with the Eugene Emeralds atop the High-A West.
And after the dust settled following an action-packed series split between the two teams, Everett and Vancouver ended the week exactly where they began — in a three-way tie with Eugene for first place in the league standings.
Here is The Herald’s weekly AquaSox update:
Three of the six games in Everett’s series with Vancouver were decided by a go-ahead or winning run in the ninth inning, including a pair of walkoff wins by the Canadians.
The AquaSox opened the series by rallying for a 5-3 victory last Tuesday. Trailing 3-2 with two outs in the top of the ninth, Everett leadoff hitter Kaden Polcovich came through with a line-drive two-run single to left field that drove in the game-tying and eventual game-winning runs.
The Canadians returned the favor on Thursday. After the AquaSox scored three runs in the seventh to tie the game, Vancouver’s Spencer Horwitz grounded a walkoff single to center field in the bottom of the ninth to give the Canadians a 5-4 win.
And in Sunday’s series finale, Vancouver won again in walkoff fashion. With the game tied in the bottom of the ninth, Horwitz hit a leadoff double and came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Luis De Los Santos to give the Canadians a 2-1 victory and a series split.
WILLIAMSON SHINES, ACCOMPLISHES RARE FEAT
AquaSox starter Brandon Williamson tossed the best game of his young minor league career Saturday night.
The 2019 second-round draft pick out of Texas Christian University struck out 13 of the 25 batters he faced in 7 1/3 brilliant innings pitched. He allowed just one run, two hits and one walk in Everett’s 9-1 win.
Williamson even threw a rare immaculate inning in the third inning, meaning he struck out all three batters in the frame on a total of just nine pitches. It was the first immaculate inning by an AquaSox pitcher since Nick Hill accomplished the feat in 2007, according to Everett play-by-play announcer Pat Dillon.
It was the longest start of Williamson’s minor league career. The 6-foot-6 left-hander was limited to no more than two innings of work in each of his nine starts with Everett in 2019, and he hadn’t thrown more than 4 2/3 innings in his first three starts this season.
Williamson, ranked by MLB.com as the No. 10 prospect in the Seattle Mariners’ organization, has posted a 2.25 earned-run average in 20 innings pitched this season. Four of the five runs he’s allowed came in his previous start against Spokane on May 22. In his other three starts, he’s yielded just one run and five hits over 15 1/3 innings.
Williamson has struck out 39 batters and walked just seven, while posting a 0.80 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) and a .132 opponents’ batting average. He’s averaging 1.95 strikeouts per inning and has fanned a whopping 50.6% of the batters he’s faced.
THEN BOUNCES BACK WITH STRONG START
Juan Then also had an impressive start this week. The 21-year-old from the Dominican Republic tossed six scoreless innings on Sunday, while retiring 18 of the 20 batters he faced. He struck out six batters, walked none and allowed just two hits.
It was a nice bounceback performance for the Mariners’ No. 9-ranked prospect, who was coming off a rough start against Spokane the previous week, when he allowed four earned runs in 3 1/3 innings pitched. For the season, Then has a 3.86 ERA in 14 innings, with 11 strikeouts and four walks.
LARSEN CONTINUES HOT HITTING
AquaSox outfielder Jack Larsen remained the High-A West batting leader with another strong week at the plate.
The 26-year-old former undrafted free agent out of the University of California-San Diego went 6-for-21 with three doubles in the series against Vancouver and is riding a seven-game hitting streak.
Larsen leads the High-A West in batting average (.337), is third in on-base percentage (.417) and is second in slugging percentage (.602). He has four home runs and 10 doubles.
Larsen’s production this season is a major uptick from his last minor league season with Advanced-A Modesto in 2019, when he posted a .237 batting average, .335 on-base percentage and .402 slugging percentage.
J-ROD, McGUIGAN PLAYING IN OLYMPIC QUALIFIER
Two AquaSox players are spending this week in Florida, where they are playing with their respective national teams at the Baseball Americas Qualifier for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
Highly touted AquaSox outfielder Julio Rodriguez, ranked by Baseball America as the sport’s No. 3 overall prospect, is playing for his native Dominican Republic. AquaSox pitcher Brendan McGuigan is on Canada’s roster.
The eight-team event, which includes the United States, began Monday and runs through Saturday. The first-place team earns an automatic bid to the Olympics. The second-place and third-place teams advance to another qualifying tournament in Mexico, where they will have one final chance to punch their ticket to Tokyo.
Rodriguez and the Dominican Republic opened group play Monday with a 5-2 win over Puerto Rico. Rodriguez batted third for the Dominican Republic and went 2-for-5 with two singles and two runs scored. He also made a key sliding catch in right field.
Through 21 games with the AquaSox this season, Rodriguez is batting .322 with five home runs, one triple and five doubles. He ranks third in the High-A West in batting average, fifth in on-base percentage (.404) and fourth in slugging percentage (.575). The 20-year-old phenom went 5-for-11 in last week’s series against Vancouver before exiting Thursday’s game to catch a flight to Florida.
McGuigan hasn’t allowed a hit this season in 10 innings pitched, over the course of six relief appearances. The 25-year-old former undrafted free agent has surrendered only one run, while posting 17 strikeouts and just three walks.
NO HANCOCK, KIRBY
Neither of the AquaSox’s top two pitching prospects appeared in this past week’s series against Vancouver.
George Kirby, ranked by MLB.com as the No. 77 overall prospect in baseball, didn’t pitch for the second consecutive series. The Mariners’ 2019 first-round draft pick hasn’t pitched since his May 14 start against Tri-City. According to a tweet from The Seattle Times’ Ryan Divish last Friday, Kirby is slated to pitch in a game this week.
Emerson Hancock, the Mariners’ 2020 first-round draft pick and MLB.com’s No. 25 overall prospect, last pitched in his May 20 start against Spokane.
Everett, Vancouver and Eugene are in a three-way tie atop the High-A West, with all three teams at 15-9. The league’s next-closest team is five games behind them.
After spending three of their first four weeks on the road, the AquaSox return to Funko Field for a 12-game homestand. Everett opens a six-game series against Hillsboro on Tuesday night. The following week, the Sox host Eugene for a six-game series.