EVERETT — Cesar Izturis Jr. entered Friday thinking he was in for a nice, relaxing off-day. And entering the ninth inning, the last thing on Izturis’ mind was his personal heroism.
But that’s exactly what happened after Everett’s no-hitter and three-run lead dissipated with just two outs remaining in the ninth inning. Izturis Jr. hit a walk-off, pinch-hit RBI single to lift the AquaSox to a 4-3 win over the Eugene Emeralds on Friday night at Funko Field.
“Today I was not playing, but obviously when you’re not playing your mentality has to be ready for any situation,” Izturis Jr. said. “I was ready for any situation, pinch-run, pinch-hit, I was ready for it. When I saw they tied the game, I was getting ready for anything, running or hitting. The manager (Louis Boyd) told me they needed me to pinch-hit, so I got ready and we got on base. My team did a great job and when I got the chance at the plate, I stuck to my approach and we got the ‘W,’ thanks to my teammates.”
Cade Marlowe singled to begin the ninth and advanced to second on Trent Tingelstad’s groundout. It set up Izturis Jr. for the decisive hit, after he flicked a single to left field to prompt his teammates to mob him in celebration and shower him with water in between second and third base.
Tim Elliott, Jorge Benitez and Kelvin Nunez took a no-hitter into the ninth inning before the AquaSox allowed their first hit, a two-run double from Edmond Americaan with one out in the inning.
After Elliott pitched two perfect frames, Benitez entered the game, issued a walk and a hit by pitch, but nothing else in his five innings of work. Nunez went three up, three down in the eighth to set up for a suspenseful ninth.
“All of them attacked the zone with their pitches and were aggressive and ahead in counts most of the game,” AquaSox pitching coach Ari Ronick said. “They made big pitches in big moments too and they threw strikes in good locations.”
It was an especially significant bounce-back outing for Benitez, who allowed 21 runs in 12.1 innings over four appearances entering Friday.
Connor Hoover’s three-run homer in the first were the only runs the AquaSox could muster over the first eight innings.
The almost no-hitter on Friday would have been the 34th in Northwest League history and the Everett’s first since 1989 — back when the team was a San Francisco Giants’ affiliate. Maximo Aleys was the last Everett minor-league player to throw a no-hitter against the Bend Bucks in a 4-1 victory.
Everett has been no-hit seven times since the franchise’s inception in 1987, including once this season against Tri-City on June 29.
The AquaSox are still two games back of Tri-City in the Northwest League North second half standings after the Dust Devils downed Boise, 8-2, at home.
“It means everything, you know,” Izturis Jr. said. “We only have nine more games, and our goal is playoffs, man. We just got to keep winning and going forward to get to the playoffs.”
Marlowe recorded four hits in the game, a season high.
Josh Horton covers the AquaSox for the Herald. Follow him on Twitter, @joshhortonEDH