Petty, Brito Key Eighth Inning Rally
Everett, Wash. – The Everett AquaSox kept missing scoring chances, but finally came through when it mattered most to earn a 4-3 victory over the Hillsboro Hops on Opening Day at Everett Memorial Stadium Friday night. The Frogs overcame command struggles by Rigoberto Garcia and a quality start by Hops right-hander Ben Eckels to come roaring back against the Hillsboro bullpen in the late innings and earn their first victory of 2014.
A couple of returning members of the 2013 AquaSox squad, Kyle Petty and Bryan Brito, played key roles in the win, delivering in Everett’s two-out, eighth inning rally to put the Frogs in front for good. Wilton Martinez worked a walk from reliever Dustin Loggins and Brett Thomas hit an infield single. A throwing error on the play allowed Martinez to scamper into third. Petty then followed with a flare single to right that scored Martinez to tie the game and put runners at the corners. After a pitching change, Bryan Brito’s infield single scored Thomas and put the Frogs up 4-3, their first lead of 2014.
For the first seven innings, it appeared that Garcia’s inability to find the strike zone would be the story of the game, as the 6’5” Dominican right-hander labored to make it through three-plus innings. He walked eight and consistently fell behind hitters. Despite the control issues, Garcia showed flashes of dominance, keeping the Hops hitless and striking out four. He kept hitters off-balance with his mid-90s, moving fastball.
The Hops, however, kept pushing across runs. In the top of the first, Ratliff drew a leadoff walk, stole second, moved to third on a fielder’s choice, and scored on a ground ball by Todd Glaesmann. Garcia’s command struggles culminated in the third inning when he walked two and hit a batter to load the bases. With two outs, Garcia walked Jordan Parr to force in Taylor Ratliff and give the Hops a 2-1 lead. Glaesmann, who had two RBIs, picked up Hillsboro’s first hit of the season with a solo homer off AquaSox reliever Leoncio Munoz in the fifth.
The AquaSox manufactured a run of their own in the bottom half of the first off Hillsboro starter Ben Eckels. After being hit by a pitch, Luis Caballero stole second, advanced on a grounder, and scored on Wilton Martinez’ fielder’s choice. But that would be all against Eckels, as the righty worked six innings, allowing just the one run on four hits. He walked one and struck out four. The Frogs twice had a runner in scoring position with less than two outs, but could not come up with a clutch hit against the Hops’ starter.
The comeback began in the seventh after it appeared the ‘Sox would squander another opportunity, this time against the Hillsboro bullpen. Kristian Brito hit a leadoff double off Loggins, but Bryan Brito struck out and Toby Demello popped up to center. Arby Fields, however, sliced a double down the left field line to score pinch runner Taylor Smart and bring the AquaSox within one at 3-2 and set the stage for the eighth inning heroics.
Dylan De Meyer (1-0) picked up the win after working 2.1 scoreless innings in relief. The righty from South Africa did not allow a hit while striking out two and walking one. Loggins (0-1) took the loss after giving up three runs, all earned, in 1.2 innings. Smart, who was taken by the Mariners in 26th round of the 2014 Draft and hails from Maple Valley, made his professional debut when he entered the game as a pinch runner for Kristian Brito in the bottom of the seventh.
The ‘Sox and the Hops continue their five game series Saturday, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05. Blake Holovach will make his Everett debut against Hillsboro’s Ryan Doran. AquaSox 2014 season and individual game tickets are available now online at www.aquasox.com and by phone at 425-258-3673.