WENATCHEE — The Wenatchee AppleSox already had at least a share of the West Coast League East Division championship wrapped up by Tuesday night, but that wasn’t enough — they wanted the whole thing.
They got it, too, clinching their fifth straight division title with a convincing 10-4 victory in the opening game of the final regular season series against the Kitsap BlueJackets at Paul Thomas Sr. Stadium.
The AppleSox are now guaranteed home-field advantage in their WCL East Division playoff series against the second-seeded Bellingham Bells — the series will start at 7:05 p.m. Saturday in Bellingham, then shift to Wenatchee for Game 2 Sunday and (if necessary) Game 3 on Monday.
“I think that’s important,” Wenatchee manager Ed Knaggs said of winning the division outright. “Tying — you know what they say, it’s like kissing your sister. It’s a long season, the guys have been working hard and we’ve lost a lot of guys. It’s nice to have that (division championship).”
“Tonight’s game was definitely important,” said center fielder Ty Moore, who was 3 for 5 with two runs scored in the win. “Getting the win tonight gives us a good push towards the playoffs.”
It wasn’t exactly easy on Tuesday — the Sox and BlueJackets counter-punched each other offensively through the middle innings, and Wenatchee trailed 4-3 after giving up three runs in the top of the third.
The Sox answered with three runs of their own in the bottom of the frame, including a two-out RBI triple by Joey Jansen, to take the lead for good.
Left-handed starter Derek Callahan bounced back from giving up four runs in the first three innings to get through seven innings to register the win and spell the AppleSox’ depleted pitching staff. Callahan, who struck out six, allowed just three hits and walked none in his final four innings of work.
“We made some mistakes (defensively) behind him, but he did a great job of righting the ship,” AppleSox pitching coach Rob Hippi said. “We needed that kind of outing out of him.”
“We needed him to go a ways,” Knaggs said. “He got a lead and he was able to get some off-speed stuff over. His change-up is a pitch he’s gaining confidence in.”
Hitting out of the No. 2 spot in the order, Moore helped ignite the Sox offense early on. He dragged a pair of bunts towards third base for singles in his first two at-bats — the first eventually helped Wenatchee score a run in the first, and the second led off the three-run third inning. He also tripled and scored in the fourth inning.
“Coach Knaggs told us in the beginning of summer that if they’re giving you a bunt, take it, and it just went my way,” Moore said. “We bunt a lot and we condition our field to be bunted on, and it really helps our hitters.”
Left fielder Taylor Sparks was another offensive star thanks to a solo homer that left no doubt off the bat in the sixth inning. It was his eighth home run in WCL play, tying him for the league lead.
Catcher Tyler Schultz was 3 for 3 with a run and an RBI, and Mitchell Gunsolus, Jeff Stephens, Jansen and Sparks added two hits apiece. Stephens also stole home against Kitsap pitcher Mason Stidham, who was pitching from the wind-up, in the second inning.
Tony Bryant and Tyler Kane each worked scoreless innings of relief for Wenatchee.
Leadoff man Daniel Jewett went 3 for 5 to lead Kitsap at the plate.
The series with the BlueJackets continues at 7:05 p.m. today. Taylor Jones (no record, 5.56 ERA) will start for the third time this season for Wenatchee.
Notes: A big positive of the AppleSox clinching the East Division title is it gives them the opportunity to set up their pitching staff for the playoff series against the Bells. Hippi said the tentative plan is for James Kaprielian (1.29 ERA) to take Game 1, followed by Callahan (6-2, 2.59 ERA) in Game 2 and Wenatchee Valley College’s Beau Kerns (4-2, 2.60 ERA) in Game 3 if necessary. … Wenatchee’s already depleted pitching staff has taken another few blows — right-hander Riley Wilkerson is dealing with soreness in his pitching arm, and fellow righty K.J. Edson is done for the season after being hit on his throwing hand.