WENATCHEE — The first inning hasn’t always been pretty, but the late-inning surge has been key for the AppleSox so far this season.
Three of their four wins have come because Wenatchee rallied in the fifth inning or later. The most recent came Sunday night when the AppleSox overcame a seven-run deficit to beat the Walla Walla Sweets 11-10 at Paul Thomas Sr. Stadium.
“The first inning has not been a nice one to us but we’ve done a good job of responding when we give up runs and allow big innings,” head coach Kyle Krustangel said after the win. “We had a good talk in the third inning about just staying with the program, we knew the arms (Walla Walla) had left and how good our bats can be, the guys stuck with the process tonight. Awesome win after two heartbreaking losses to start the series.”
Keegan Romig, who was a bulldog for Wenatchee in his first few outings, just didn’t have it Sunday night. The senior gave up a leadoff double to the right-field wall on the first pitch of the game and never recovered, allowing four runs on a pair of walks, a hit-by-pitch and two base hits.
The Leavenworth-native was chased from the game without recording a single out and left two men on for reliever Seth Kuykendall, who got the next three Walla Walla batters out to limit the damage.
“(Keegan) makes his money on his fastball command and he didn’t have it,” Krustangel said. “It’s tough to go out there with just a breaking ball, but that’s the first time I’ve seen him not have his fastball. We made the move early knowing it was an un-Romig type outing and Seth did a good job coming in ready to go.”
Kuykendall was solid in the second but got touched up for three runs, only one of which was earned, in the third, giving way to Brett Gillis in the fourth.
That’s when Wenatchee’s bats started to wake up.
The AppleSox chipped at the deficit with four in the fourth on three singles and a sac-fly from Quinn Ayers and added another run in the fifth off a Ryan Altenberger triple. Wenatchee then tacked another four runs in the sixth as the AppleSox nearly batted around the lineup, pulling with a run.
Ayers then put Wenatchee on top with a two-run shot over the right-field fence in the seventh, and that was all Luke Schirer needed to close the door.
Schirer struck out the first four batters he faced and set all six down in order to earn his third save of the season.
“He’s a presence up there,” Krustangel said. “He loves his fastball and has embraced the closer role after throwing 75 innings as a starter this season at George Fox. He and (Alec) Gomez are guys you have to have in the back-end of the bullpen and they both bring a different demeanor out there, but the guys know when we got a lead with those two it’s lights out.”
The win brings Wenatchee’s record to (4-8) on the season as they split the homestand against Port Angeles and Walla Walla. The AppleSox head out for three games in Port Angeles, starting Tuesday, before returning home for a two-game set against the Highline Bears on Saturday and Sunday.
“It was a much better six-game spread, so we’re looking forward to getting to Port Angeles and (hopefully) winning another series.”
First pitch in all three road games against the Lefties are at 6:35 p.m.