WENATCHEE — The wheels came off late for the Wenatchee AppleSox in Saturday’s game as the home team lost to the Klamath Falls Gems 6-3, running Wenatchee’s losing streak to five games.
The Sox entered the top of the ninth inning down just one run when Gems second baseman Tyson Dahl hit a single to right, then Austin Brand hit a single of his own, and pitcher Parker Sherrell laid down what was supposed to be a routine sacrifice bunt, but first baseman Jake Bruml struggled getting a handle on the ball and rushed his throw, which eventually ended up in right field. Brand scored to make it 4-2.
“We just broke down defensively late,” AppleSox head coach Ed Knaggs said after the game.
Two hitters after the error, Cole Trezek hit a single to right, and Dylan Rogers slapped a single to right to run the Klamath Falls lead to 6-2.
The AppleSox looked like they were eager to get over the sweep early in Saturday’s contest. The Sox jumped to a lead in the bottom of the first when designated hitter Andre Real plated center fielder Brock Slavin from second on a double to deep left field.
“It would be nice to (execute on) offense more, but we certainly (executed on) offense enough,” Knaggs said. “We got a little bit of a lead — two-run leads are tough, one-run leads are tougher.”
Securing shutdown innings — stopping the other team from crossing the plate in the next frame after scoring — was a problem the entire night for Wenatchee. Klamath Falls catcher Dempsey Grover led off the top of the second with a single through the left side of the infield, and was plated on a Tyson Dahl single three batters later, knotting the score at one apiece.
The 1-1 score held until the bottom of the sixth, when Real earned a walk on a full-count with one out. Real moved to second on a Bruml groundout, and scored when University of San Francisco third baseman Bob Cruikshank slapped a single up the middle. Real touched home on a savvy reaching dive to avoid Grover’s tag.
But the Gems answered right back with a run of their own in the top of the seventh. Dahl hit an infield single, advanced to second on a passed ball and then was batted-in on an Austin Brand single, to tie the game at 2-2.
“In the eighth, we were lazy behind the plate, that allowed the runner to get to second,” Knaggs said. “Then they hit a little Judy hit to right field, which scores a run.”
Then in the top of the eighth, Dylan Rogers slapped a single to right field, moved to second when Sox relief pitcher Chris McDowell walked Grover, and scored when second baseman Stockton Taylor threw what would’ve been the second end of a double-play into the dugout.
“We did a great job of getting a great double-play ball, but we air-mailed it to first — we couldn’t play catch,” Knaggs said. “Those (errors) were huge.”
The Gems then did what the Sox couldn’t all night — get a shutdown frame. Real grounded out to the pitcher and Bruml and Cruikshank each struck out to end the inning.
Wenatchee’s second baseman, Taylor, led off the bottom of the ninth with a single through the third baseman’s legs. After a Joey Harris strikeout, pinch hitter Randy Fuller laced a single to left, but Brett Stephens’ deep fly ball found the centerfielder’s mitt for the second out of the inning. Taylor scored on a passed ball to make it 6-3. But the game ended two pitches later when Ryan Barr, of University of Portland, grounded out to the third baseman.
The loss has to hurt for a team that isn’t accustomed to losing — Knaggs and last season’s AppleSox won the West Coast League championship, and many of the Sox players come from colleges that finish high in their respective conference’s standings. But Knaggs says that help is on the way as his team’s roster remains in flux.
“I don’t want to call it a funk (that we’re in),” Knaggs said. “We just aren’t doing it when it matters. It’s going to be nice to get a couple more defensive/offensive guys in. That’s going to help us.”
Wenatchee gets a chance to avenge its loss to the Gems today at a special start time — 6:05 p.m. — for Father’s Day at Paul Thomas Sr. Baseball Stadium on Wenatchee Valley College’s campus. Central Washington University righty Davis Engle will take the mound.
“Hopefully, we can (execute on) offense a little more and more consistently, because that helps your defense too,” Knaggs said. “We need to score runs and get after it a little bit. I thought (the Gems) did that pretty well. They did a nice job, hung in there, hung in there, and took advantage of us making mistakes, so credit them.”