Courtesy of AppleSox Communications
WENATCHEE, Wash. – In baseball, we “ooh” at the long home run, we gawk at the 100 M.P.H. fastball and we turn our caps inside out for good luck. When it comes down to it though, everyone is hoping for that story. The unbelievable moment that sticks with you forever. The Wenatchee AppleSox (6-2, 4-2) provided that for the fans left at Paul Thomas Sr. Field, Wednesday night as they plated four in the bottom of the eleventh to come from behind in their second straight game and win it 13-12.
At first glance, Wednesday’s game didn’t appear to be out of the ordinary. The Kitsap BlueJackets (4-2) and AppleSox found themselves locked in a pitchers’ duel through the first five innings.
After five innings of play, a Simon Rosenbaum home run gave the AppleSox a 2-1 lead. The shot to left was just the Sox third hit of the game, however they would go on to score seven more runs in the sixth and seventh innings, creating a less than exciting 9-1 score in Wenatchee.
With the game seemingly in hand, the Sox turned to their bullpen. In the seventh the BlueJackets were retired one-two-three. In the eighth, things changed drastically. Zack Haggett allowed four runs in the eighth to cut the BlueJackets defecit to 4.
In the ninth, things got worse. A lead off home run for Jacob Martinez (who entered the game in the eighth) made it 9-6. Blake Valley then singled. To follow, Xavier Palmer and Dylan LaVelle were both retired and the game seemed back in control.
With two strikes and two outs against the BlueJackets leading hitter, Haggett hung a pitch over the zone and Austin Bush crushed it to center field for a two run blast; The second home run for Kitsap in the inning, making it a one run game. Zach Larsen then singled and Kyle Blankenship entered the game for Wenatchee out of the bullpen.
Jeff Bohling doubled and Daniel Woodrown hit an infield single to the right of the Sox first baseman Rosenbaum who made a head-first diving attempt to tag out Woodrow at the bag. While late to first, Rosenbaum gunned down Jeff Bohling at the plate, while he tried to sneak his way home as the go-ahead run.
Both teams were held scoreless in the tenth, while the eleventh held plenty of drama.
In the top half, Kitsap punched across three more runs on Blankenship. Things had spun out of control and Wenatchee had given up 11 unanswered runs to the BlueJackets.
With Head Coach Ed Knaggs out of town on business, AJ Proszek (the pitching coach) and Jason Krohn (an AppleSox assistant) were left to rally the troops.
Proszek explained that the goal headed to the bottom of the ninth was to approach each plate appearance one at bat at a time and fight back.
One day removed from a three-run come from behind walk off in the ninth inning, the AppleSox had just a little bit of magic left up their sleeves.
Mike Livingston led off the AppleSox eleventh with a strikeout and things seemed bleak. Yet, Livingston’s motto: “Think crazy things; It helps” was about to be put to the full test as the AppleSox didn’t just think about doing crazy things. They DID crazy things.
Sam Brown followed the strikeout with a single. Trenton Brooks then unloaded on a fastball and sent it way out to right, tallying the fourth home run of the game between the two teams (while bringing the Sox within one run of tying). The BlueJackets turned to Thomas Casey to get the save.
Nick Brooks looked as though he was going to squeeze in a bleeder off Casey to the right center field gap, however, Valley came on and made a tremendous catch for Kitsap and the Sox were down to their last out.
Ty Jackson then came to the plate and was hit by a pitch. Proszek and Krohn promptly sent in Tanner Nishioka to pinch run. He stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Down 3-0 in the count, Casey elected to walk Cooper Elliott and the table was set for Rosenbaum, who homered earlier.
Proszek and Krohn shocked Paul Thomas Sr. Field, though, when they decided to pinch hit Tyler Frost for Rosenbaum (based on a strong batting practice performance by Frost). At the plate for the first time in 2014, for Wenatchee, Frost delivered with a hard single back up the middle that scored Nishioka and placed Elliott at second, while tying the game.
At this point, the storyline came together perfectly. Walking into the batters’ box was Taylor Johnson; the catcher from George Fox signed to a temporary contract. Johnson singled home the winning run the day before with the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the ninth.
Wednesday, Johnson was 0-5 coming to the plate in the eleventh. He saved his lone hit for the best possible moment, though. He split the shortstop and the third baseman to the left side of the infield when he pulled a Casey pitch through the hole.
With outstanding speed, Cooper Elliott (who was 3-4 from the plate to start the game) rounded third and slid safely into home, just ahead of the tag from Martinez. The fans who stuck it out through the roller coaster ride went wild and the field was mobbed by AppleSox players.
Elliott recalls that by the time he looked up from the slide at the plate, Johnson was already being congratulated by half of the team behind first base, while the rest of his teammates were running to embrace Elliott at the plate.
In back-to-back game winning situations, Johnson delivered. The score went from 9-1 AppleSox to 12-9 BlueJackets and swung back the the Sox as they wrapped up the series 13-12.
For Johnson, he called it the best two consecutive games he has ever had in baseball, citing that it is special to know that his teammates trust him in key game winning situations. Elliott reiterated the excitement for Johnson in his post game interview as before he could say anything about his individual performance, he said he was glad that Johnson got the chance to win it again.
It was a “pinch me I’m dreaming” moment, Wednesday. The thing was, pinch all you wanted and the scoreboard didn’t change, the smile didn’t fade from Taylor Johnson’s face, and your heart didn’t slow a lick. That’s because it wasn’t a dream. It was a great story brought to life on the diamond and no matter how ridiculous it seemed, the story grew into a non fiction gem, now forever a part of AppleSox history.
KIT 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 4 4 0 3 12 19 4
WEN 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 3 0 4 13 15 2
WP – Kyle Blankenship
LP – Thomas Casey