Sox beat Ems, inch closer to Volcanoes

  • By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
  • Monday, August 10, 2009 11:29pm
  • Sports

EVERETT — The Everett AquaSox head out on the road on a winning note.

When they return home for their next game at Everett Memorial Stadium they’ll be in the midst of a de facto playoff series.

Everett finished off its longest homestand of the season in victorious fashion, thumping the Eugene Emeralds 11-5 Monday night in a game that was shortened to seven innings by rain.

Next up for the Sox is an eight-game road trip that begins with five games in Boise. After that it’s 12 games in 15 days against the Northwest League West Division-leading Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, a stretch that will likely decide the division champion.

“Everybody knows we’ve been playing pretty good,” Sox first baseman Gerardo Avila said. “But now, in baseball they say it’s the time for real men. It’s the time to battle against those guys and try win all the games we have against them. If we can win seven or eight of those and finish strong, we can give the fans what they want, which is for this team to go to the playoffs.”

Avila continued to swing a hot stick, going 3-for-4 with a homer and five RBI Monday to lead Everett (31-19). Brandon Bantz also homered, his third in two nights.

Joey Railey doubled twice and drove in four runs to lead Eugene (21-29).

With the victory the Sox captured the three-game set against Eugene 2-1. The Sox finished off the homestand 6-2.

Everett’s next homestand isn’t as long (six games, which begins Aug. 20), but will be substantially more significant as it begins smack in the middle of Everett’s head-to-head pursuit of the Volcanoes.

It’s been a long season of chasing for the Sox. Salem-Keizer, a perennial Northwest League powerhouse, again broke fast from the gate this season, building an early lead. Only Everett was able to stay in contact, and even the Sox looked like they might fall by the wayside as the Volcanoes’ lead grew to six two weeks ago.

But following Monday’s results Everett’s deficit is a manageable two games, meaning there should be plenty to play for when the teams begin their head-to-head stretch Sunday in Keizer, Ore.

“We’re trying to take it one game at a time and not worry about the opponent,” winning pitcher Taylor Stanton said. “But obviously we’re thinking about Salem-Keizer. It’s interesting because we haven’t seen them yet. We’ve talked to other teams and they say we’re better, but you never really know how you match up until you play one another.”

Everett nearly cut the deficit to a 11/2 games Monday, but Salem-Keizer rallied for six runs in the bottom of the eighth to beat Vancouver.

However, the Sox did their part in trying to tighten the race. Everett pounded out 14 hits in just six innings, and Stanton overcame a wobbly start to turn in a solid outing. After giving up five hits and three runs in the first two innings, the right-hander faced the minimum in his final four frames. He struck out five in improving to 3-2.

“I was having trouble with my offspeed stuff early, but Bantz (Everett’s catcher) and (pitching coach Rich) Dorman took me aside between innings and helped me refocus,” Stanton explained.

The Sox batted around in the bottom of the second to surge ahead, the first five Everett batters of the inning all reaching base and scoring. Everett then turned it into a rout in the sixth. Avila and Bantz each launched their homers in the inning as the lead stretched to 11-3.

Eugene picked up a pair of consolation runs in the top of the seventh on Railey’s two-run double before the rains washed out the rest of the contest.

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