WENATCHEE — The AppleSox made improvements Wednesday night in the finale of their two-game series with the NW Star Academy, but there are still some things to clean up heading into their weekend set against the Portland Pickles.

The pitching was there, but the bats just needed to wake up a little in pivotal moments. Wenatchee plated three runs in the eighth inning off a single from leadoff hitter Enzo Apodaca, but the Gonzaga freshman was stranded on third to end the rally.

After Jasper Nelson set the Nighthawks down in order, the AppleSox had a chance to walk it off after putting runners on first and third with one out in the ninth but Jackson VanDeBrake struck out swinging and Payton Flynn grounded out to short to end the game. The NW Star Academy won 7-6, completing a sweep to open the season.

But these two non-league games were — and always are — a time for guys to get their feet wet, get back into form and start to gel as a team. It’s a new group, new coach and new environment for some; it’ll take a few games to settle in. The real season begins Friday, with the first league game against Portland.

Wenatchee used five different arms on Wednesday: Gauge Lockhart, Reid Rasmussen, Hunter Salinas, Martin Haswell and Jasper Nelson. Lockhart was given the nod to start the game and didn’t allow a base runner through two innings of work.

Lockhart had all of his pitches going and looked good but was taken out for Rasmussen after the second. Rasmussen got through the third inning unscathed and was pitching with a two-run lead in the fourth but allowed three runs after giving up a two-RBI double to Dylan Myers.

VanDeBrake walked and came around to score to bring the AppleSox back within one in the home half but Wenatchee was still lacking that clutch-hit to seize momentum. After Rasmussen, Salinas was handed the ball and pumped gas for two innings. The soon-to-be junior at Colorado State University Pueblo had the Nighthawks guessing at the dish and blew his fastball past them. Salinas got into a jam in the sixth with the bases loaded and one out, but he worked his way out of it and escaped with no earned runs.

The Nighthawks tagged Haswell for four runs over the next two innings, however, which proved to be the difference. Former Chelan High School standout Connor Wilson pitched 2.1 innings of relief for the NW Star Academy and did well, allowing just two hits while fanning two.

Next Up:

Wenatchee has an off day Thursday before hitting the road for a three-game set with Portland. The AppleSox return home Tuesday for a three-game series against the Walla Walla Sweets. First pitch on Friday is at 7:05 p.m., and 6:35 p.m., on Tuesday. Every AppleSox game can be heard live on Sunny FM — 93.9 in Wenatchee — and on various translators throughout North Central Washington.

Sports Reporter

Zach Johnson is a 28-year-old sportswriter from Lakewood, Colorado. When he's not covering local sporting events you can find him carding birdies at many of the state's public golf courses, biking the Apple Capital Loop Trail, or skiing Mission Ridge.