EVERETT, Wash – Sam Eberle hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the fifth inning and Andrew Leenhouts and the Volcanoes’ bullpen combined to limit the AquaSox to one run while scattering seven hits as Salem-Keizer defeated Everett by a score of 4-1 before 2,216 fans at Everett Memorial Stadium Friday night. Thyago Vieira took his first loss of the season as the AquaSox continued their early July swoon, dropping their fourth straight game and fifth out of their last six. Jamodrick McGruder was 3-4 with a home run for the ‘Sox in the losing effort.
In a game that appeared closer than it actually was, the AquaSox continued their season-long trend of taking an early lead thanks to an unusual display of power in the first inning. McGruder turned around a 3-2 fastball from Andrew Leenhouts, launching it over the hand-operated scoreboard in right field for a leadoff home run, the first of his pro career, and a 1-0 Everett lead.
The ball seemed to finally be bouncing the Frogs’ way after a couple tough losses as the Volcanoes missed a couple of chances to tie the game early against Vieira. In the second inning, Elliott Blair lined a one-out single to right. Two batters later, Blair stole second and advanced to third when the throw by Everett catcher Christian Carmichael skipped into center field. But with the tying run on third, Vieira struck out Ryan Jones on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning.
Salem-Keizer again got the tying run into scoring position in the fifth inning, but came away empty handed. Vieira hit Jones to leadoff the inning and with one out, DJ Peterson bobbled a ball hit by Kentrell Hill, taking away any chance at an inning-ending double play as Peterson fired on to first to get Hill while Jones moved to second. The next batter, Randy Ortiz, hit a ground ball up the middle. Frogs’ shortstop Jack Reinheimer made a nice forehand play and threw to first, but not in time to get the speedy Ortiz. Jones made an aggressive base running play and attempted to score from second, but Justin Seager’s throw was on the money and Carmichael blocked the backside of the plate with his leg to make the tag on Jones for the third out.
The AquaSox also missed a scoring opportunity and a chance to add to their lead against Leenhouts. Reggie Lawson lined a leadoff single to center in the third and with one out Jack Reinheimer hit a slicing ball toward the right field line that fell for a single. Lawson attempted to go from first to third and was gunned out on a relay from the Salem-Keizer second baseman Jones. The Frogs would muster nothing else against Leenhouts, who threw five complete innings to improve to 3-0, allowing just the one run on three hits while striking four and walking none. He retired his final seven hitters in order.
The AquaSox had just four hits the rest of the way and in the sixth the Volcanoes offense was jumpstarted by Eberle. Brandon Bednar got things going with a line drive double to left center that ‘Sox left fielder Phillips Castillo was unable to cut off in the gap. Then, with Bednar on third, Eberle, who ranks among the league leaders in nine major categories, crushed a fastball from Vieira the other way to right center for his fourth homer of the year. Eberle picked up his 16th and 17th RBIs on the two-run blast, moving him past DJ Peterson into second place in the NWL, as Salem-Keizer took the lead 2-1.
The Volcanoes weren’t done against Vieira. After getting the second out, Vieira walked Shilo McCall and Jones, with a wild pitch on ball four to the Jones sending McCall, who had stolen second, to third base. The next hitter, Geno Escalante hit Vieira’s 0-2 pitch to the wall in left center for a two-run double that put Salem Keizer ahead 4-1.
The score was still 4-1 when the AquaSox had a chance to get back in the ballgame against Cameron McVey in the seventh, but couldn’t get a clutch hit to drive in any runs. James Zamarripa hit a line drive that scooted to the wall in center for a one-out double and Austin Wilson followed with a bloop that dropped into no man’s land in left for a single. After a strikeout, McVey walked Phillips Castillo to load the bases with two outs for Lawson. With the tying runs aboard, Lawson worked a 2-2 count before going down swinging to retire the side.
Frogs’ reliever Tyler Wright wiggled out of a two-out jam in the top of the eighth to keep the ‘Sox in this one. Blair reached on an infield single and a walk to Jones put runners at first and second with two outs. Wright appeared to be out of the inning when Escalante hit a broken-bat grounder, but Peterson misplayed it for an error and the bases were loaded. Wright escaped unscathed, however, when Hill popped out to right. Wright worked 2.1 innings, allowing no runs while giving up just one hit, as he continues to be a solid left handed presence out of the bullpen.
Eduardo Encinosa came on and worked a 1-2-3 ninth to finish the game for Salem-Keizer.
For five innings, Vieira (2-1) appeared in control, thanks to some defensive help as the ‘Sox flashed the leather early Friday. Austin Wilson and Phillips Castillo made diving grabs, Castillo’s to save a run, and there was the key play in the fifth, which was made possible by Reinheimer ranging to his left, Seager making an accurate throw, and Carmichael blocking the plate. Vieira mixed his fastball and off-speed stuff, relying on his breaking ball to keep the Salem-Keizer hitters off-balance as he racked up four strikeouts in his first five innings while holding the Volcanoes to three hits. But the wheels fell off in the sixth, as Vieira allowed three hits, all for extra bases, and walked two. Vieira’s final line for the night was four earned runs on six hits in 5.2 innings pitched with four strikeouts and two walks. Vieira also hit two batters.
DJ Peterson was 0-4 with three strikeouts for the Frogs and was ejected from the game after striking out in the eighth. The AquaSox had 11 strikeouts as a team Friday.
The AquaSox fell to 15-7 while the Volcanoes took sole possession of the best record in the NWL, improving to 16-6. The teams continue their five-game series tomorrow at 7:05 PM. Steven Ewing (0-0, 5.93) will go for the AquaSox against Jose Reyes (2-1, 2.00) as the Frogs attempt to get back on track. July 6th is Mike Zunino Bobblehead Night at the ballpark. The first 1,000 fans will receive a Mike Zunino bobblehead, courtesy of Tulalip Resort Casino. AquaSox 2013 season and individual game tickets are available now online at www.aquasox.com and by phone at 425-258-3673.