WENATCHEE — The second half of the season begins tonight for the Wenatchee AppleSox. That is important because basically, the season starts over in the second half. Victoria was the winner of the West Coast League’s North Division in the first half with a 17-7 record. That means they are assured of a playoff spot.
The Corvallis Knights won the first half in the WCL South with a 17-6 record, so they too are assured a playoff spot.
Wenatchee finished third in the North Division with a 12-15 record, but they still can make the playoffs if they do well in the second half. The Sox were pummelled 11-1 by Bend in the first game of their three-game series last Friday.
Henrik Reinertsen took the loss for Wenatchee. To their credit, the AppleSox rebounded the next night with an 8-4 win. Gavin Gorrell picked up the win for Wenatchee.
“It’s always tough. There are no excuses. The Bend trip is a tough travel day with the six-hour bus ride. We showed up later to the yard. In the first game, we were down 5-0 after a three-run home run. We were a little flat,” said Wenatchee Head Coach Kyle Krustangel. “We talked that night about having good energy and we came out in game two and got a good start from the starter and the offense went to work. It was nice to even the series.”
In game three, Wenatchee was up 2-0 early but Bend came back to tie the game 2-2 in the sixth. The AppleSox pushed across two runs in the eighth for the win. Alec Gomez got the win, while Landon Shirer got the last six outs for the save.
Krustangel was proud of his team for bouncing back after the tough loss in game one. He said in the WCL, there are not too many runaway games.
“With baseball, it is flush and move on to the next day. I thought the guys did a good job of rebounding and winning game two,” Krustangel said. “In game one, they threw the best arm we’ve seen all year, a hard-throwing lefty. Their bats got hot and the game got away from us. I like out squad against theirs. We bounced back and won the series.”
Wenatchee begins a seven-game homestand on Tuesday with three more games against Bend, which finished the first half at 12-15. Krustangel said it is strange to be playing the same team six times in a row. He is feeling like his team is taking some momentum into the Bend series.
“After we lost the first game to Kelowna, we had four games left in the first half. I challenged the guys to use the last four games to gain momentum into the second half. We went out and won three of our last four,” he said. “I really like the way the guys are playing. We’re competing hard. We finally have our full roster. I’m glad we were able to carry some momentum into the second half.”
After three games against Bend, the AppleSox will host Bellingham for three games. The Belles finished second in the North with a 16-11 record.
If the AppleSox could win both series, Krustangel said that would be great. For him, it’s all about winning game one.
“If we can get game one, we’d be playing for a series win game two,” Krustangel said. “We take every series one at a time. You can’t look to game four, five and six. It’s all about the first opponent. The Bend Elks are coming to our yard. We have to do a better job of playing at home and protecting the home yard.”
Next Monday, Wenatchee hosts a non-conference game against the U.S. Military All-Stars. Then, they will hit the road for a six-game road trip to Kelowna and Bellingham.
Krustangel said both teams will be running out new starters and relievers in the upcoming series against Bend because pitchers need four to five days rest. The hope is to carry some momentum from the Bend series into a series against a good Bellingham club.
“They are a good squad. I like our pitching against them. We have to focus on Bend and take care of them. We’ll look to get game one. Game one of these three-game sets is huge. A majority of the time the team winning game one wins the series. We have to attack and get game one,” he said. “For us to make the postseason, we have to keep collecting series wins.”
In the first half, Wenatchee finished fourth (of 12) in team batting. They were eighth in team pitching and 11th in team fielding at .950. Krustangel said the defense is much better because they have guys in the correct spots now.
“Pitching is interesting. The teams that have good starts are generally the team that wins. We definitely have guys in correct spots,” Krustangel said. “We’ve moved some guys to starters and some to the back of the pen. I like where we are at. I think roles are defined.”