WENATCHEE — The numbers from Tuesday’s game between the Kelowna Falcons and the Wenatchee AppleSox are staggering — to say the least — and would better fit the statistics from an entire series, not just one nine-inning game.
The teams combined for 32 runs, 36 hits and 61 total baserunners. The home team proved victorious despite giving up at least a run in six innings. The Sox took the series-opener 22-10, which is a team-best for most runs scored. Wenatchee also tied the record for most hits in a single game with 24.
“The hitting was contagious,” center fielder Brock Slavin said. “We were seeing the ball well as a team. Jumping on the first-pitch fastballs and having a great night.”
Kelowna (11-23) and Wenatchee (20-14) are on opposite ends of the North Division standings, but the Falcons scored a run in the top of the first in what looked like a frame that would put the Sox on their proverbial heels. But the AppleSox hitters clearly had other plans.
Wenatchee brought up 11 batters in their half of the first with all but Joey Harris reaching base in the stanza. Grant Palmer kicked off the Wenatchee hitting frenzy with a slap single to right field, he was followed by a Brock Slavin walk, then singles from Connor Spencer and Andre Real, and a Joey Jansen double before Kelowna starting pitcher Marc-Andre Habeck could record another out. But, after getting Harris to strikeout, Habeck surrendered another three straight singles before getting pulled.
“Weird game,” AppleSox head coach Ed Knaggs said. “The start of it was them getting excited, kind of similar to what we saw from (Medford talking a lot from the dugout). It was really neat to come up and get seven in the first to change things a little bit. We did a nice job coming out, we were swinging the bats well.”
Kelowna took a bite out of the Wenatchee lead in the third, when AppleSox starter Stuart Patke gave up three runs. Patke struggled despite the early run support, lasting only four innings, giving up six hits and five runs while walking five. Reliever Chris McDowell, of Washington State, also struggled with his control as he walked three and surrendered four runs in three innings of work.
“I think (the Sox pitchers) were being a little too fine,” Knaggs said. “We got that lead and Stuart was struggling. With that kind of lead, you don’t have to be nibbling at guys. It needs to be, ‘here it is. Hit it.’ ”
But the pitchers’ struggles mattered little on Tuesday, when the AppleSox hung up big number after big number. The Sox batted around the lineup in three different innings in the game. In the fourth, Wenatchee scored five runs on seven hits, and the team scored plated seven runners on six base knocks in the sixth.
Slavin went 3-for-5 with a double, a walk and a hit by pitch. Wenatchee Valley College infielder Nate Steffler — who entered the game with a .179 batting average — was 3-for-6 with two runs batted in.
“A typical night is 3 at-bats,” Slavin said. “It was fun to get up there and just see the ball well.”
Shortstop Joe Mello went 4-for-5 with two runs, a pair of RBI and a walk. The tenacious, hard-swinging infielder from Chabot College has been a spark for the team since he joined in late June. The Sox are 12-5 since he has been on the squad.
“It was (a turning point in the season), it wasn’t all him. But he’s really helped us with his energy,” Knaggs said
Now the AppleSox turn to lefty Trevor Lubking, who pitched phenomenally — recording 10 strikeouts over just six innings — the last time he got the start at Paul Thomas Sr. Baseball Stadium. While, the southpaw from Pacific Lutheran University has thrown well at home, he struggled in his last start in Corvallis, where he gave up 12 hits and nine runs in just four innings — his worst outing of the year.
“I’m sure he’s excited to get back on the hill and get back at it,” Knaggs said.
With such a dominating performance in the opener, the potential for an offensive letdown in game-two today seems sizeable.
“We just have to come hot like we did (Tuesday),” Slavin said on what he and his teammates will have to do to continue the hot streak they are on. “We answered them after they scored that first run. We’ll have to answer quick and stay on top of them (today).”
Knaggs said his team has an even keel mentality that serves them well in situations like these.
“We don’t get too excited,” he said. “We won, the guys aren’t throwing a party. When we lose, we don’t get too down either. They know it can be so different: If (the Falcons) put a guy on the hill that can deal, it’s a totally different game.”
“But, it’s nice to come out on top and take the first of the series — bottom line.”