Despite a ninth-inning rally that brought what had been a silenced PK Park crowd to its feet, the (11-10, 5-3 at home) Eugene Emeralds fell short Friday night, dropping their series finale against the Everett AquaSox (16-6, 7-4 away), 4-2.
AquaSox starting pitcher Victor Sanchez (3-0) shut down the Emeralds’ lineup for eight innings, yielding just three base runners and no runs before allowing a Ronnie Richardson single and Corey Adamson walk to open the ninth. Grady Wood (S, 2) then relieved Sanchez, allowing a Dane Phillips single and Alexi Colon walk to cut the AquaSox lead to 4-1.
Wood, a Eugene native, then struck out Jeremy Baltz, and yielded a ground out to Alberth Martinez, scoring Adamson. Despite loud encouragement from the PK Park faithful, River Stevens hit a weak ground ball to third base and was thrown out to end the game.
“Guys battled, put themselves in a position to win,” said Emeralds Manager Pat Murphy. “We just didn’t execute when we had to.”
It was the AquaSox that struck first in the second inning. Following a Juan Acevedo single, Alfredo Morales hit a weak groundball down the third base line, which Emeralds starting pitcher Juan Marcano (1-1) bobbled, allowing Morales to reach base. Marcano’s wild pitch to David Villasuso allowed Acevedo and Morales to advance to second and third base, a mistake that Villasuso capitalized on with a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Acevedo and giving the AquaSox a 1-0 lead.
The AquaSox weren’t done yet. Michael Faulkner added on to the early lead with a single to left field, plating Morales and extending the Emeralds’ deficit to two runs.
In the fifth inning, the AquaSox used a little bit of small ball and some help from Marcano to put another run on the board. Michael Faulkner reached first on an infield single – again, misfielded by Marcano – and proceeded to steal second base, and reach third base on a Ketel Marte groundout. Faulkner then scored when Marcano balked, pinning the AquaSox to a 3-0 lead.
“It’s inexcusable,” said Murphy of Marcano’s struggles in the field. “You’ve got to be able to field your position.”
Marcano threw five innings in total, allowing three runs on six hits and one walk. Meanwhile, as Marcano labored, Sanchez cruised, turning away the Emeralds in the first fourteen at-bats.
The Ems put Sanchez in the stretch for the first time in the bottom half of the fifth inning when a sharp Alberth Martinez ground ball got past AquaSox third baseman Patrick Kivlehan, reaching second base on what was ruled an error. Sanchez recovered quickly, however, striking out River Stevens to end the inning.
In the sixth inning, the Ems threatened once again. With one out, Stephen Carmon singled to center field, ending what had been a no-hitter for Sanchez. Ronnie Richardson then was plunked on the upper back by a Sanchez fastball, putting runners on first and second. Once again, Sanchez calmed the storm, getting Corey Adamson to fly out, and Dane Phillips to ground out.
The AquaSox appeared primed to extend their lead in the top of the seventh inning. With Alfredo Morales on third base with two outs, Ketel Marte hit a hard ground ball up the middle, only to be speared by Ems shortstop Stephen Carmon, who then spun around, and threw to first to deny Marte of what seemed sure to be an RBI single. In the ninth inning, however, the AquaSox succeeded in adding to their lead against Ems relief pitcher Tony Wieber, when David Villasuso’s line drive to center field skipped past a diving Ronnie Richardson, scoring Alfredo Morales from first base.
In the bottom half of the ninth, the Ems managed to chop the deficit in half, but ultimately were not able to complete the comeback. The inning featured some extra drama aside from the rally, when Jeremy Baltz was called out on strikes. After Murphy argued the call, Home Plate Umpire Nathan Tomlinson consulted with Bases Umpire Sean Ryan, who ruled Baltz had foul-tipped the pitch into the ground. AquaSox manager Rob Mummau then stormed out of the dugout in fury to argue the overruling.
Ultimately, the whole controversy was for naught, as Baltz struck out swinging on the very next pitch.
Sanchez enjoyed his second consecutive dominant performance against the Emeralds, having thrown six and two thirds of an inning and allowing one earned run Sunday in Everett, though the AquaSox bullpen blew the lead, resulting in a 5-4 Emeralds victory.
History did not repeat itself Friday, as Sanchez proved even more masterful, and Wood managed to fend off the late Emeralds charge.
“Second time in six days, he shut us down for six innings over there, and he shut us down for eight innings here,” noted Murphy.
The Emeralds entered Friday’s game looking to complete a sweep against the AquaSox, having won the series’ previous two games, 9-1 and 7-6. They will open a three game home series Saturday night at 7 PM against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.