EVERETT — The Everett AquaSox aren’t ready for the season to be over — at least not as long as Aaron Stroosma has something to say about it.
Stroosma, a Skagit County native and alumnus of Sedro-Woolley High School and Seattle University, belted a fifth-inning grand slam as the Everett AquaSox kept their slim postseason hopes alive with an 10-5 win before 1,750 fans Tuesday afternoon at Everett Memorial Stadium.
“We’re on the outside looking in, but we want to control our own destiny as much as we can,” Stroosma said. “If we can give ourselves a chance to get in that’s what we’re playing for.”
With four games to play, the AquaSox (18-16 second half, 35-37 overall) trail Spokane and Tri-City by two games for the second and final playoff berth from the Northwest League North Division. Both the Indians and Dust Devils won their games on Tuesday night.
Everett concludes its home schedule Wednesday and finishes the regular season with a three-game road trip to Spokane that could determined the final postseason spot.
Vancouver clinched the first half North Division title and is already assured of a postseason spot. The Canadians conclude the regular season with a three-game set against the Dust Devils.
Stroosma’s homer was his first as a professional. It was also the first grand slam home run hit by an AquaSox player this summer.
“He was struggling a little bit offensively and it was real good to see him hit a grand salami, especially in the situation we are in right now, close to making the playoffs,” Everett manager Jose Moreno said. “I think the confidence for him is going to be huge going forward.”
Trailing 4-2 in the fifth, the AquaSox loaded the bases with no outs. The next two hitters struck out, but Chris Torres came home on a wild pitch. Then the Emeralds elected to walk Onil Pena intentionally to set the stage for Stroosma.
The Everett designated hitter made Eugene pay as his line drive cleared the fence in right-center to turn the 4-3 deficit into a 7-4 lead.
“When they’re going to walk the bases loaded you know they’re going to come after you and 1-0 I got a good pitch and was able to do what I wanted with it,” Stroosma said. “I (can) hit the ball the other way. That’s kind of my gap. I just tried to hit it hard.”
Everett added three more in the eighth with RBI doubles from Pena and Jansiel Rivera.
Michael Rivera pitched 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief and Ted Hammond earned a three-inning save by allowing one run on five hits. Their combined performance helped overcome a tough outing from Everett starter Brian McAfee, who couldn’t make it out of the third inning.
“He was putting the hitters in two-strike (counts) right away, but he didn’t have that patience to finish,” Moreno said. “It was a little bit tough. But after that Rivera came in and helped a lot. He had a really strong three innings and then Ted came in and finished. That was real good. We were able to come back and come from behind to win the game.”
The Emeralds scored the game’s first four runs. However, Austin Grebeck led off the bottom of the third with a single, and Torres blasted a long home run to straight-away left field that cut Everett’s deficit to 4-2.
Michael Cruz’s single off the fence in right-center field scored Jhonny Bethencourt with the game’s first run as Eugene took a 1-0 lead in the top half of the first inning.
The Ems pushed the lead to 3-0 in the top of the second. The first two hitters singled, but McAfee appeared on the verge of getting out of trouble as he retired the next two hitters. However, Zach Davis delivered a two-out single to left to score both runners for the three-run lead.
Miguel Amaya’s RBI double pushed it to 4-0 in the third.
From that point it was all Everett. Torres and Stroosma each had two hits for the AquaSox, who pounded out 10 as a team.
“All year we’ve been able to put up runs,” Stroosma said. “We’ve had great pitching lately and we haven’t been able to put up the runs. I think this is kind of who we are — at least as long as I’ve been here — it’s what our offense can do. It was good to get back on track like that and I think if we’re able to play this way offensively and pitch this way we have a chance down the stretch.”
The Emeralds and AquaSox conclude their five-game series at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday.
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