WENATCHEE — This past homestand was pivotal for the AppleSox and their playoff hopes. So a sweep over the Bells and an overall (4-2) start to the second half was the exact prescription needed.
Wenatchee finished third over the first half of the season and will be battling with Bellingham, who finished second, over the next month to secure the final playoff spot – Victoria already clinched the other by winning the first half.
“We’ve known since the first half was done that for us to win the second half it’s going to have to go through Bellingham,” head coach Kyle Krustangel said after Sunday’s 8-3 win. “We hadn’t played great at home so far this year (so) getting the sweep is massive. That’s four in a row for us and puts us in a good situation, we have to keep playing baseball but it’s nice that we’re finally playing the right way and playing hard.”
The AppleSox swept Port Angeles in mid-June, but this is the best they’ve looked all season.
After getting shut down for the second time in a week by Bend ace, Gil Luna, the Wenatchee offense exploded for 16 runs the next night. The AppleSox then took it to the Bells for three games over the weekend, winning in a variety of ways; a walk-off squeeze the first night; a late three-run home run from Dalton McPhillips the second; and then a combined four-hit pitching display the third.
Grant Gorrell started for Wenatchee on Sunday and collected his second win in as many outings. He changed eye-level, mixed in his offspeed and was sublime through five innings, striking out four and allowing one earned run on two hits.
“He’s just embraced who he is and knows that he is a crafty lefty that can control the fastball on both sides of the dish and has good offspeed,” Krustangel said of the Mount Si alum. “I think coming into this league, he saw guys lighting up the radar and was amped up trying to over-throw, (but) when he over-throws as a lefty the ball is straight and up and he was getting hit around.”
“Before his outing in Bend, he took a deep breath and kind of said, ‘Who cares about the radar gun, I can get outs,’ and I feel he went out tonight and said the same thing. He knows he can command both sides of the plate up-and-down with all of his pitches, and when he does that, he’s special.”
Not to be outdone or overlooked was the Sox pen, who relinquished only nine hits in 13 innings against the Bells, and the AppleSox offense, which has seemingly come alive.
Wenatchee was dogged by their inability to generate timely hits throughout the first month of the season, but that was an outlier compared to this weekend. The AppleSox produced two long-balls and six extra-hits, two of which were nabbed by Hunter Montgomery, who finished a triple shy of the cycle and collected 4RBI’s Sunday night.
“We’ve known we are a good offensive team and I think the numbers speak for themselves,” Krustangel said. “In that dry spell, we weren’t getting any two out big base hits, but we’ve finally put some good swings together.”
It’s all starting to come together for the AppleSox, who head out on a nine-game road trip against Kelowna, Bellingham and Walla Walla.
“The page is turned to day one in Kelowna and we’re playing for series wins,” Krustangel said. “Sweeps are hard to come by but I like where we are at.”
First pitch in Kelowna Tuesday night is at 6:35 p.m.