WENATCHEE — After a grinding, grueling couple of months, we’re finally here … the playoffs.
The AppleSox come in having dropped their last four games, but before that, they were the hottest team in the WCL, winning 19 of 23 over a four-week stretch. They will have their work cut out for them against the Victoria HarbourCats, who are riding an eight-game winning streak of their own, won 12 of their last 14 and have dominated the WCL all summer.
At least they’ll have a home-field boost in game one, with the HarbourCats — the lower seed — choosing to play game one in the Apple Capital while games two (and three if needed) will be played in Victoria.
The WCL is unique in that regard, but it also gives Wenatchee a leg-up given that they are (17-10) at Paul Thomas Sr and (7-1) in series after winning the first of a three-game set.
The AppleSox aren’t wasting the opportunity and are running out their best arm for Tuesday’s contest in Jake Saum (4-1, 2.80 ERA).
Only an incoming freshman at UCLA, Saum has been one of the more consistent and dominant pitchers in the league. His 2.80 ERA ranks fourth-best (among qualified pitchers) and he has the sixth-most strikeouts (54) in the WCL. The kid’s stuff is nasty.
In 45 innings, Saum has yet to give up a home run, averages seven strikeouts per outing and has a (.189) opposing batting average. The AppleSox have also won all but one of the games he has started, including their last three.
Wenatchee will likely have to lean on its pitching in the series, which is the only phase that has maintained at least some continuity with nearly all the everyday position players either back in their hometown or college/university.
Of the lineups the AppleSox threw out over the weekend in Corvallis, only Jason Harayda, Alex Jemal and Brett Gillis had been with the team longer than 10 games — and the latter two split time between pitching and playing the field.
The rest have been with the team for only the last couple of weeks.
And in the four games since the departure of Ryan Altenberger, Dalton Harum, Blake Klassen, Kody Darcy and Hunter Montgomery, the AppleSox have mustered just 20 hits and six runs.
But expect a good outing from Saum. He’s been rock solid all summer, and the Sox seem to rally around him each outing. If he can give them six or seven innings and hand it over to the pen unscathed, Wenatchee will win this game. Take that for a prediction.
First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. With Tuesday being an early deadline at the World, the recap of the story will appear online only.