EVERETT — The bullpen pitchers met the jubilant Troy Dixon near third base and trailed him toward home plate, where they doused him with the Gatorade bucket as he was mobbed by his teammates.
The cold liquid was welcomed, not only as respite from the afternoon heat, but because Dixon’s solo home run leading off the bottom of the ninth inning gave the Everett AquaSox a 3-2 victory Thursday over the Vancouver Canadians before 2,289 fans on Kids Day at Everett Memorial Stadium.
“I knew I hit it good, but I was happy it went out,” Dixon said. “Anytime you can get a win, it’s a great day.”
The AquaSox (2-1 second half, 22-19 overall) took the rubber match of the series with their second walk-off win in less than 18 hours after Nick Rodriguez singled in the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning Wednesday night.
Dixon is far from the most likely candidate to hit a game-winning home run. Thursday’s blast was the first home run of the season for the catcher, who hit two with Everett last year. Dixon finished the game 2-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored.
“Troy is an unbelievable kid,” Everett manager Jose Moreno said. “It’s his second year with me, and that is the kid that you want to have in your lineup. He’s a great guy in the clubhouse, a leader. He comes every day to work, and (the home run) was his reward.”
On Wednesday and Thursday, the Everett bullpen gave up late leads.
On Thursday, the AquaSox led 2-1 in the eighth when McGregory Contreras tied the game with a solo home run to left field. It was Contreras’ second home run of the game as the power-hitting left fielder accounted for both of Vancouver’s runs.
“They were just mistakes, and if you make a mistake you’re going to pay for it,” Moreno said, “but we bounced back. The team had that reaction, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
Dixon’s home run made a winning pitcher of reliever Benjamin Onyshko (1-0). The southpaw came on with one out in the top of the ninth to face the left-handed hitting and second-round draft pick Griffin Conine. Onyshko fanned Conine on three pitches, and induced an inning-ending groundout on his next delivery.
“It’s tough when you have the lead, and we lost it in the eighth,” Dixon said, “but we battled back. Pitchers came in and did the job, and it was a good team win.”
Contreras gave Vancouver a 1-0 lead with a solo home run in the top of the third inning against Ivan Fortunato. That was the only mistake for Fortunato as he allowed just three hits and one walk while fanning four in five innings of work, and left after the seventh with a 2-1 lead.
“I think it was the best outing so far for him,” Moreno said. “He was attacking the zone, controlling the fastball for a strike, mixing his pitches very well, and our defense was really good.”
The Everett offense gave Fortunato the lead with two-out RBI singles by Dixon and Connor Hoover in the fourth. Everett’s lead remained 2-1 until Contreras’ second home run of the game against reliever Noah Zavolas tied the game in the top of the eighth.
Everett starter Michael Plassmeyer allowed one hit and fanned a pair in two innings of work before yielding to Fortunato.
Vancouver pitcher Juan Nunez allowed seven hits and struck out five with two walks and two runs in five innings in relief of starter Nick Allgeyer.
Marcus Reyes (1-2) took the loss after allowing Dixon’s home run. Reyes has been one of Vancouver’s top relievers and entered the game in the eighth with a 0.44 earned-run average.
The AquaSox begin a five-game set at Salem-Keizer on Friday. They return home for a five-game homestand against Boise on Wednesday.
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