WENATCHEE — It might not have been the most exciting way to win a ballgame, but it was fitting with Friday night being Johnny “Walker” Sage’s last game in an AppleSox uniform.
After extending the game into extra innings, the AppleSox loaded the bases before catcher Hunter Montgomery drew a free pass to walk off the Yakima Valley Pippins, 4-3 at Paul Thomas Sr Stadium. Wenatchee has now won six-in-a-row (including their non-league win Wednesday) and 10 straight at home.
“Not the most exciting I guess, but down 3-1 facing those two arms, we’re lucky to come away with a win,” head coach Kyle Krustangel said postgame. “I thought we came out a little lackadaisical and had a couple of defensive errors, so we got to tighten that up from the start, but again, this group finds a way to win. Another job well done for the Sox.”
Trent Sellers got the AppleSox on the board in the first after he singled to left, stole second and then made a great read to take third and home on a passed ball the Pippins’ catcher couldn’t immediately locate. But that was all Wenatchee could scratch out through five innings against Pippins’ starter Jack Gonzalez, who had a quirky delivery out of the stretch.
With his shoulders off-kilt and a lot of movement in his wind-up, Gonzalez was able to throw off timing and keep the AppleSox batters off-balance. He allowed only two runners to reach second base after the first inning.
Jake Saum was just as good for the AppleSox. He maneuvered through the first three innings unscathed but allowed one run to come in after giving up back-to-back base knocks in the fourth. Saum started to lose his command the next inning and allowed two more to come in, but he worked out of a bases-loaded jam to get out of the fifth. The AppleSox chipped away at the lead with one run in the sixth, scoring on a balk, before tacking on another in the seventh on an RBI sac-fly from Kodie Kolden.
Saum gave way to reliever Ryan Isler in the sixth, and he was masterful. Through four innings of relief, Isler allowed just one batter to reach base and punched out two.
“He was phenomenal,” Krustangel said. “I thought he was the player of the game.”
With Isler able to last four innings, Krustangel was able to save Brett Gillis and Landon Schirer for the weekend when the AppleSox will be playing for either a series win or sweep. But ultimately the best bonus was sending Sage, who has been the absolute heart and soul of the AppleSox the past two seasons, off with a win.
“We’ll be playing hard for him,” Krustangel said. “He has given everything he has for this organization so it’s nice for him to leave on the right note and a walk-off win, which I’m sure is the way Johnny would want it.”
With the Victoria HarbourCats falling 12-6 to Bellingham Friday night, the AppleSox are now tied with Victoria at (13-6) in the second half.
Wenatchee will look to take the series with Seth Kuykendall getting the nod on Saturday. First pitch is at 6:35 p.m.