WENATCHEE — The offensive fireworks for the Wenatchee AppleSox were Wednesday. Thursday was all about their pitching keeping the Victoria HarbourCats from regaining the lead.
“It was definitely different,” AppleSox head coach Ed Knaggs said about his team winning the last two games by wide margins, but taking a 3-2 victory on Thursday at Paul Thomas Sr. Baseball Stadium.
The Sox had only four hits on Independence Day, but still got the win and the series-sweep against Victoria. The loss knocked the HarbourCats out of first-place of the North Division of the West Coast League for the first time this summer.
“Looking up and seeing we only had two or three hits, I thought, ‘holy cow, it’s getting late,’ ” Knaggs said. “Their (pitcher) didn’t seem that dominating. But hits were tough to come by. We pitched well enough to keep them at bay.”
Starter Jake Bruml allowed the HarbourCats on the base paths in four out of the five innings he pitched, but still allowed only two runs.
“He battled tonight,” Knaggs said about his starter.
The AppleSox are making it a habit scoring at least a pair of runs in their first at-bat: After giving up a run to the HarbourCats, Wenatchee shortstop Joe Mello drew a lead-off walk. Mello moved to second when Grant Palmer grounded out to third. Then, center fielder Brock Slavin drew a walk, and Mello was plated one hitter later on a Connor Spencer single. Slavin reached home when Ryan Barr grounded out to third, giving the AppleSox a 2-1 lead.
After that first inning, it looked like the AppleSox — who have been hitting the ball well as of late — would have no problem piling on the runs. But the Sox had only three baserunners the next five stanzas.
“Every night you never know what it will take to win a game,” Knaggs said. “We did just enough. We weren’t special, but we did just enough.”
The game tightened up when Victoria’s Brandon Smith led off the top of the fifth with a triple to the right-center power alley, and scored when Alex Real grounded into a double play to tie the score at 2-2.
But, Wenatchee Valley College pitcher Mitch Yada entered the game the next inning and absolutely slammed the door on the Cats. The lefty threw three innings, allowing a single hit and walking none.
“I went out there, wanted to throw strikes, pound the zone, let them hit it, get themselves out, and it worked tonight,” Yada said.
Wenatchee scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the seventh, when Stockton Taylor led off the inning by extending his hitting streak to 12 games with a single to left. After a Joey Harris walk, right fielder Brett Stephens laid down a perfect bunt single that Victoria catcher Real threw away trying to make the out at first, which scored Taylor. With men on second and third, Mello walked to load the bases, but despite having a man on each bag with no outs, the Sox couldn’t capitalize and left the frame scoring just one.
“When you’re going well, that one seems to be enough,” Knaggs said.
University of Washington pitcher Tyler Kane — the WCL single-season record holder for saves — entered the game in the ninth to save the one-run game. Kane recorded two strikeouts and got the final out on a pop-out in foul territory, his only blemish being a four-pitch walk.
“Tyler, he just did what he does,” Knaggs said. “I’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of that from him.”
Kane was drafted in the 38th round by the Miami Marlins in this year’s draft and was told to throw some innings in the summer while the team considered contract terms, according to Knaggs. With the July 15 deadline for picks to sign rapidly approaching, the Sox skipper is far from certain he will have the lights-out closer for the rest of the summer.
“I hope whatever is best for him happens for him in the next few days,” Knaggs said. “But I have a hunch we won’t have him for much longer.”
The AppleSox will now embark on a six-game roadtrip tied for first place in the North with the Walla Walla Sweets. Former WVC righty Beau Kerns will pitch today in Kitsap. After a three-game series in Western Washington against the BlueJackets, the Sox will travel south to play the Corvallis Knights.
“We’ve got a lot of games left,” Knaggs said. “Now we go on the road, where it’s tougher. Hopefully we take confidence that we’ve been playing pretty well, try to keep it going.”