Westberg saves day in AquaSox’s win over Canadians

The Federal Way native struck out four and escaped a bases-loaded jam in a key relief appearance

EVERETT — The AquaSox, for the second consecutive night, recorded the go-ahead run on a bases loaded walk. Trent Tingelstad was issued a free pass with two outs and the bases juiced in the eighth to lift Everett to a 7-6 win over Vancouver on Wednesday a day after Miguel Perez’s walkoff walk to defeat the Canadians.

Everett wouldn’t have been in position to win Wednesday’s games without Garrett Westberg.

The AquaSox reliever entered the game with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh inning, and struck out the Canadians’ No. 3 and No. 4 hitters, Luis de los Santos and Yorman Rodriguez, to quell the threat.

“I think that was huge for us. We were short on pitchers today,” AquaSox manager Jose Moreno said. “It gave the opportunity for us to come back, put together some good (at-bats) and win the game.”

He recorded a clean eighth inning, fanning two batters, to complete his outing.

Westberg, a 26th-round pick out of Central Florida, is from Federal Way and attended Decatur High School and Tacoma Community College for two seasons before transferring to the Sunshine state.

As a native of the Pacific Northwest, Westberg grew up rooting for the Mariners. While he was packing up his apartment in Orlando, he hugged his roommate, redshirt sophomore David Litchfield, when his named popped up next to the Mariners in the MLB draft tracker.

“I was hoping to get the call at some point and seeing it was the Mariners was just that much better,” Westberg said. “It was a dream come true.”

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound reliever was a stalwart out of the UCF bullpen for two seasons, registering a 1.13 earned-run average in 24 innings as a junior and a 3.18 earned-run average and a whopping 45 1/3 innings in 30 appearances.

He ended up at UCF because Greg Lovelady, formerly the head coach at Wright State, recruited Westberg during his freshman year and kept tabs on him when he was a sophomore. When Lovelady was named the Knights’ head coach in 2016, he offered Westberg a spot on the roster.

“It just fell into place,” Westberg said, adding he was seeking a school in either California or Florida for the sunny weather and top-notch competition.

Westberg’s first professional appearance was a nightmare. In 2/3 innings, Westberg struck out a pair, but allowed four earned runs on two hits and two walks in the AquaSox’s 11-0 loss to Boise on June 19.

Starting the season with a 54.00 earned-run average is suboptimal, to say the least.

But it’s steadily dropped down to 6.75 after he’s turned in three consecutive scoreless outings.

“I think at the beginning everyone tries to do too much,” Moreno said. “They try to show that (they) deserve to be here and belong. They still have to go baby steps, control their emotions and eliminate destruction. He’s been doing a really good job, pitching ahead in the count, attack the strike zone and pitch for contact.”

Westberg (1-0) recorded his first hitless appearance in his professional career on Friday, striking out four and walking none over 1 2/3 innings to earn his first professional win.

The secret sauce to his success? Establishing pitcher-friendly counts so he can employ his slider, which hovers in the low 80s with significant drop as it reaches the plate.

“I think it’s just throwing strikes, just being more competitive with every pitch I throw,” Westberg said. “Just not being afraid of being hit around a little bit.”

The AquaSox jumped out to a two-run lead in the first after Ryan Court’s two-run homer. Court, 31, is in his third game with Everett on a rehab assignment from Tacoma.

The Canadians knotted the score in the second after Adrian Ramos reached on a fielders’ choice with the bases loaded and Cameron Eden singled in another run.

McGregory Contreras pummeled a two-run homer to left-center to open up a 4-2 lead in the third for Vancouver.

De los Santos doubled to center field in the fourth to score Cameron Eden and push the lead to three for the Canadians.

Carter Bins legged out an infield single, allowing Court to score from third in the fourth to cut the lead to two.

Court and Patrick Frick walked in the fifth, advanced to third on a balk called on Joshua Almonte, and Bins reached on a throwing error by de los Santos, allowing both runs to score and tying the game at five. Bins advanced to third on Dean Nevarez’s double to right-center and scored on Parker Caracci’s wild pitch.

Tanner Morris lined a single up the middle with the bases loaded in the seventh to tie the game at six, but Westberg soon entered to end the threat.

Tingelstad watched four pitches out of the strike zone after DeAires Moses laid down a bunt single, Billy Cooke singled and Robert Perez Jr. walked to set Tingelstad up for the game-winning RBI.

Tingelstad, a Marysville native, entered Tuesday’s contest with a .195 batting average, but a much more respectable .327 on-base percentage. His plate discipline can go unnoticed, according to Moreno.

“He doesn’t show it by the numbers, but since day one, he’s been taking really good at-bats,” he said. “He looks like he has a really good idea at the plate. He’s consistent.”

Nate Fisher picked up his first professional save. The southpaw issued a leadoff walk to Davis Schneider, but retired the next two hitters before Nevarez threw out Schneider stealing at second to end the game.

Caracci (0-1) was handed the loss after allowing one run on three hits over 1 2/3 innings.

Frog hops

Court went 1-for-1 with two RBI, two walks and three runs scored. Moreno said Court will have the day off on Thursday and return to Tacoma on Friday.

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