WENATCHEE — The fireworks display after the game paled in comparison to what the Wenatchee AppleSox did offensively Wednesday against the Victoria HarbourCats.
The AppleSox hit two home runs and their pitchers recorded 12 strikeouts en route to a dominating 8-1 win, which tied them for first place in the North Division of the West Coast League with Victoria and the Walla Walla Sweets.
“The last couple of weeks, we’ve just played better,” Wenatchee head coach Ed Knaggs said after the game. “(Tonight), we had a pitcher throwing strikes, the guys really swinging it and we didn’t make an error. We’re playing the game well. When you play the game well, you tend to win.”
The Sox took advantage of Victoria pitcher Connor Russell’s rocky start by tagging him for runs early. Russell issued a four-pitch walk to second baseman Joe Mello to lead off the first, then catcher Eric Hutting made a productive out — seeing seven pitches before flying out to right — which moved Mello to third after a stolen base. Mello scored when center fielder Brock Slavin legged out an infield single, taking advantage of Victoria second baseman John Schuknecht’s nonchalant play on a deep groundball. Then first baseman Connor Spencer absolutely crushed a fastball midway up the fence for a standup double, which scored Slavin from first and gave the home team a 2-0 lead.
“I don’t think (AppleSox starter Trevor Lubking) has had a two-run lead (to work with) this whole season, period,” Knaggs said.
The lefty had another sharp start, throwing six innings with 10 strikeouts, scattering five hits — except for the two he surrendered in the sixth. Lubking pounded the zone, with 78 of his 108 pitches being strikes, and got his first win of the season.
“I went out with the same approach I’ve had every other start,” said Lubking, who plays for Pacific Lutheran during the school year. “I threw strikes and I had eight guys behind me, same thing like always, the offspeed was working and the fastball was working. Tonight I got run support. I knew they were going to be out there because of last week’s start (when he lost despite giving up only one hit). I got two in the first and that was more than I needed.”
But Wenatchee hitters didn’t stop at two. Eric Hutting’s single to left field in the bottom of the fifth scored UCLA-bound Brett Stephens and shortstop Nate Steffler, running the score to 4-0.
Then the AppleSox busted the game open in the sixth, when a pair of lefties took advantage of the wind blowing out to right field. Spencer led off the inning with an infield single that probably would’ve been an out had the pitcher covered first base when the first baseman ranged to his right to field the grounder. After an Andre Real fly out, Ryan Barr hit a high fly ball down the first base line that carried over the wall for a two-run homer.
“Off the bat, I thought it was foul,” Knaggs said. “It was neat to have some other guys jumping on the hitting bandwagon. It was helpful to have that consistency through the lineup.”
After the homer, Steffler hustled down the line for an infield single to keep the inning alive, which gave Stephens an at-bat. Stephens worked to a 2-1 count before pounding his second home run in as many games over the wall in right-center field. Mello ended the inning on a scorched line drive that was gloved by Russell, but the damage was done and the Sox left the inning with a 7-0 advantage.
“Got a pitch to drive and put a good swing on it,” Stephens said. “It felt good off the bat and got out of here pretty easily, it was nice. I’ve been comfortable for a while, but it was nice to get into a few balls in front of the home crowd, which was awesome tonight. We had a lot of fun playing tonight — it was a nice atmosphere.”
Spencer also had a good day at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a double and a walk.
The HarbourCats got a run back in the top of the seventh, when David Schuknecht hit a fly to right that carried over the wall for a solo home run off of reliever Chris McDowell, a Washington State Cougar. But Victoria couldn’t sustain any offense and dropped the second in a row of a three-game series.
Righty Jake Bruml will take the hill today to try to secure the sweep.
“Where we’re at, we’re going to have to do some sweeping if we’d like to do something special,” Knaggs said.
NOTES: Third baseman Stockton Taylor continued his hot run at the plate in the bottom of the second when he pulled a single between the third baseman and shortstop. His hitting streak is now at 10 games. … Attendance was 1,663 — the highest so far this summer. … Before this series started, Real was the only AppleSox player to have a home run, Barr joined him Wednesday and Stephens now only has one less than Real with two. … Coming into Wednesday’s game, July 3 was tied for the least successful day on the calendar for the AppleSox. Wenatchee is now 3-7 in league games on the date, according to local statistician Bruce Bennett. June 13 now stands alone as the worst day for Sox wins at 5-8 overall.