Pitching, good fortune drove AppleSox to title
Pieces fell into place nicely for Wenatchee this collegiate season
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Sox by the numbers
• 2:44: Average time of 33 home games
• 4-1: Team record in extra innings
• 62.9: Franchise’s all-time winning percentage
• 73.1: All-time winning percentage in August
• 98: Temperature during the July 9 home game vs. Walla Walla
• 34: Players who played for Wenatchee this season
• 6: Statistical categories — batting average, home runs, RBIs, total bases, slugging percentage and strikeouts — that first basemann Eric Peterson led the team in
• .476: League-leading on-base percentage recorded by infielder Clayton Eslick
— Information compiled by Bruce Bennett, AppleSox statistician
WENATCHEE — In between the first pitch of the 2010 summer collegiate season (a strike by Michael McIver to Walla Walla) to the last (a 97-miles per hour fastball from Jeff Ames against Bend), the Wenatchee AppleSox’ pitching staff did the heavy lifting in getting the team to its second straight West Coast League championship, and it’s fourth in six years.
At times during the season, Wenatchee’s play was inconsistent in the other key areas of the game — hitting and defense.
But for the great majority of the time, the arms were always there.
And in baseball, pitching wins championships.
“I think this year’s staff, and I guess the whole team, was like other years where I wouldn’t say we had the most talent, but we had guys that enjoyed coming to the ballpark and were good teammates,” manager Ed Knaggs said.
Of the 13 Wenatchee pitchers that threw at least 10 innings this summer collegiate season, nine had an earned run average of under 4.00, a figure that is considered about the barometer for a successful pitcher.
“We were pretty consistent on the mound when it got down to it. We had guys like Mike (McIver), Marco (Gonzales), Griff (Todd Griffiths) and (Jeff) Ames that really came through for us,” Knaggs said.
McIver, Gonzales and Zach Gallagher were an effective 1-2-3 punch atop the starting rotation for Wenatchee, and accounted for all four of the team’s postseason victories.
Griffiths made 21 appearances as a rubber-armed setup man, and the Sox’ staff went from good to great when Ames was shifted to the closer’s role a month into the season.
Including the postseason, Ames finished the summer with nine saves, and didn’t allow a run since moving to the bullpen.
“The starting thing didn’t work out for him, and after Billy (Moon) left we had a real lack of a closer in the back of the ‘pen,” Knaggs said of Ames. “We knew he had the stuff to be dominant. We tried it and it obviously worked.”
Knaggs added that Ames will make another go at starting for Lower Columbia College in Longview, where Sox pitching coach Rob Hippi has the same role, next spring.
“Like a position player that shows he can play at different spots, Jeff showed this summer that he’s versatile by closing,” he said.
Knaggs said that he was surprised that the Colorado Rockies, who drafted Ames in the 30th round of June’s MLB Draft, didn’t take a serious run at signing him as a draft-eligible freshman out of Lower Columbia.
“Everyone half-thought he’d be a guy that signed in June, so we were pretty lucky to get him,” Knaggs said.
“I doubt we’ll see him again next summer.”
Outside of Ames’ seamless transition to bullpen stopper, Wenatchee caught several other fortuitous bounces this summer that contributed to their repeat championship win.
“We had (Nick) Rulli fall into our laps at just the right time, we had Zach Sullivan join us when we were down to nobody in the outfield that series in Bellingham (July 22-24),” Knaggs said. “Everyone had their own time where they starred for us a little bit.”
Offensively, the AppleSox were led by burly first baseman Eric Peterson, who hopes to parlay his solid summer into a crack at the starting lineup at the University of Washington next spring.
Peterson hit .339 with five home runs and 37 runs batted in, all team highs.
He trailed only Trent Bridges with 62 hits on the summer.
“People definitely began to know about him a little bit more as the summer went on. Opponents were pitching him differently and defending him differently,” Knaggs said of Peterson, who saw defenses shift their entire infield to the right side of second base late in the season.
“He saw a lot more left-handers this summer than he ever had before, and he did very well,” Knaggs added. “A big difference for him is his ability to go the other way. The ball just comes off his bat differently. I remember the first time I threw him BP I asked him what kind of bat he was using.”
Bridges, outfielder Collin Bennett and infielder Clayton Eslick were all key cogs in the Sox’ offense this summer, but it was the pitching that kept the league trophy in Wenatchee.
Brian Adamowsky: 664-7157
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