Three teams. Two spots. Two weeks to go.
The three-way battle to play in the High-A West championship series is coming down to the wire.
And at the moment, the Everett AquaSox are ever so slightly the odd team out.
The AquaSox lost their fifth consecutive series this past week, dropping four of six games at home to the fourth-place Vancouver Canadians at Funko Field.
As a result, Everett (60-48) fell to third place in the six-team High-A West. The AquaSox trail the first-place Spokane Indians by one game and the second-place Eugene Emeralds by a half-game.
Everett and Eugene both have 11 regular-season games remaining. Spokane has 12 games left.
It’s been a massive downhill slide for the AquaSox, who seemed like a lock for the championship series just five weeks ago.
At that point, they were in first place with a scorching 51-26 record. They had spent most of the season dominating the High-A West with a roster chock-full of talented prospects. And they were leading Eugene by 7.5 games and Spokane by 14.5 games — which seemed like an insurmountable gap at the time.
But as the season progressed, most of Everett’s top players got promoted. A whopping 14 players from the AquaSox’s season-opening roster have been called up to Double-A Arkansas this year, including 12 players between July 11 and Aug. 11. And in the wake of the mass exodus of prospects, Everett has gone 9-22 over its past five series.
Spokane, meanwhile, has been red-hot. The Indians are 23-5 over their past five series, including a 10-game win streak at one point.
And now, after more than 100 games, the High-A West’s top three teams are locked in a razor-tight race for the postseason.
Both of the AquaSox’s wins this past series featured some late-game heroics.
Last Wednesday, recently promoted catcher Andy Thomas played a big role in Everett’s back-and-forth 9-8 victory. Thomas, a fifth-round pick out of Baylor University in this year’s MLB draft, hit a go-ahead two-run double in the seventh inning to give the AquaSox a one-run lead. And in the top of the ninth, Thomas threw out a runner attempting to steal third base for the final out of the game.
On Saturday, outfielder Victor Labrada blasted a walkoff two-run homer over the right-field fence in the bottom of 11th to lift Everett to a 10-9 win. He also hit an RBI double in the eighth inning, and then came around to score the tying run that ultimately forced extra frames.
HOOVER NAMED HIGH-A WEST PLAYER OF THE MONTH
AquaSox infielder Connor Hoover was named the High-A West player of the month for August.
Hoover, a 2017 21st-round MLB draft pick out of the University of North Georgia, batted .326 in August with nine home runs, two triples and eight doubles in 25 games. He posted a .441 on-base percentage and a scorching .750 slugging percentage for the month.
Hoover reached base in 23 of the 25 games he played in August. He recorded a hit in 21 of the 25 games.
After hitting just .148 through the first two months of the season, Hoover has raised his batting average to .235 this season. The 25-year-old Georgia native has 17 homers, four triples and 23 doubles in 93 games with Everett this year.
Here are some players who stood out for Everett in this past week’s series:
Dariel Gomez: The 25-year-old first baseman from the Dominican Republic went 7-for-20 with two home runs and two doubles in the series. Since being promoted from Low-A Modesto in mid-July, Gomez is batting .275 with 11 homers, three triples and 14 doubles in 43 games with the AquaSox. He has a .606 slugging percentage over that stretch.
Joseph Rosa: The 24-year-old infielder went 7-for-21 with two home runs in the series. Rosa is batting .256 with seven homers, three triples and 18 doubles in 76 games with Everett this season.
Victor Labrada: The 21-year-old outfielder from Cuba went 8-for-29 with three home runs and three doubles in the series, including a walkoff two-run homer in the AquaSox’s win Saturday night. Since being called up from Low-A Modesto in mid-July, Labrada is batting .256 with six homers, three triples and five doubles in 40 games with Everett.
Cade Marlowe: The 24-year-old outfielder went 6-for-22 with three home runs, one triple and one double in the series. Since being promoted from Low-A Modesto in mid-June, Marlowe is batting .255 with 17 homers, five triples and 18 doubles in 62 games with the AquaSox.
Jarod Bayless: The 24-year-old right-hander pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings over a pair of relief appearances in the series. He struck out five batters, while allowing one walk and one hit. He has a 2.53 earned-run average in 21 1/3 innings this season, with 31 strikeouts and just five walks. And since returning from the injured list on Aug. 18 after a nearly two-month absence, Bayless has struck out 13 batters in 7 1/3 innings, while yielding just one run, three hits and two walks.
Everett closes the regular season with a pair of series against the other two High-A West championship series contenders. The AquaSox travel to Eugene this week for a five-game series that runs Tuesday through Friday, with a doubleheader slated for Friday. Everett then closes the regular season next week by hosting Spokane in a six-game series.