EVERETT — The stage is set.
The two hottest teams in the Northwest League will square off in the heat of the Willamette Valley as the Everett AquaSox visit the Eugene Emeralds for a critical five-game series.
The AquaSox knocked off the Tri-City Dust Devils 8-1 before 3,314 fans Friday to complete a three-game sweep. The Frogs can now officially turn their focus to the Emeralds (17-5, 45-15), who won their 15th straight game on Friday.
Everett (16-6 second half, 34-26 overall) scored four runs in both the first and third innings as the Frogs won their fourth straight and completed their longest homestand of the season with a 6-2 record. Everett now has a commanding seven-game lead over Spokane and Vancouver, and an eight-game lead over Tri-City.
Kristian Brito made certain Tri-City’s 1-0 first-inning lead was short-lived. Jason Goldstein and Dimas Ojeda walked to load the bases with two outs in the bottom of the first, and Brito deposited the first offering from Hansel Rodriguez over the fence in right center for a grand slam and a 4-1 advantage.
The Frogs tacked on four more in the third. One run came in when Ojeda was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, another scored on a wild pitch, and Nick Thurman and Jose Leal had RBI singles as the AquaSox pushed their advantage to 8-1.
That was all for the scoring as the two bullpens combined for six scoreless frames the rest of the way.
Tri-City starter Rodriguez (0-1) took the loss. Buddy Reed and Boomer White each had two hits to pace the Dust Devils.
Fernando Tatis Jr., the 17-year-old son of former major leaguer Fernando Tatis, made his Northwest League debut for Tri-City. He finished 1-for-3 at the plate, but committed two errors at shortstop.
Everett starter Brandon Miller gave up back-to-back singles to open the first to Nate Easley and Reed. Miller induced a double-play grounder from White, but Easley came home on a wild pitch to give Tri-City a 1-0 lead.
Austin Grebeck had two hits including a double and Brito finished with a homer and a single. Donnie Walton doubled and scored twice, while Jason Goldstein and Ojeda both scored two times.
Miller allowed one run on three hits and struck out one in three innings before yielding to Reggie McClain (2-3). McClain scattered nthree hits and did not allow a run in three innings, while Joselito Cano allowed one hit in his two innings of work.
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