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AquaSox end championship drought09/13/2010 3:15 AM ET
Ashley Marshall / Special to MLB.com
Manager Jose Moreno and his coaching staff were just about the only people in the AquaSox dugout who were alive the last time Everett won the Northwest League championship.
Anthony Fernandez pitched seven shutout innings Sunday and the AquaSox beat the Spokane Indians, 6-1, to cap a remarkable season and capture their first title in 25 years.
When Tyler Burgoon struck out Jacob Skole to end the game, Everett players raced to the mound to celebrate. It was a scene last experienced when Ronald Reagan was president and the team was known as the Giants.
"It feels very good," said Moreno, 42. "It's a great feeling and I am so happy and proud of all of the kids. They deserved it.
"It was a great game and we feel really happy. We have a lot of guys from the Draft, and it's great to see what we have accomplished. It's exactly what we were looking for."
After losing Game 1 of the best-of-3 Championship Series, the Mariners' short-season affiliate knew it had to win back-to-back games. Moreno told his team to take it one play at a time, winning each of the small battles, just as it had done all season.
"We had different goals throughout the season," he explained. "First it was to be a .500 team, then to clinch the division, then to do well in the playoffs. We took everything step by step."
After edging the Indians, 4-3, in Saturday's win-or-go-home contest, the season came down to a one-game showdown.
Moreno turned to Fernandez, and his ace didn't disappoint. The 20-year-old left-hander, who shared the league lead with eight wins, allowed four hits over seven innings.
Fernandez retired the side in order three times and allowed only two baserunners to get into scoring position. He turned a 6-0 lead over to his bullpen.
Eric Valdez worked 1 2/3 innings and Burgoon came on for the final out.
"We could have gone with [Edlando] Seco or Fernandez tonight, but we made the decision to use Fernandez," Moreno said. "If something had happened, we could have then used Seco, but Fernandez got the job done.
"We have a lot of confidence when he is on the mound. With all of the pressure today, he slowed the game down, kept hitters off-balance and threw a lot of first-pitch strikes. He was really good."
Evan Sharpley staked Everett to a second-inning lead by homering of the left-field foul pole and the AquaSox broke the game open with a five-run fourth.
Kevin Rivers and Hawkins Gebbers scored on an error to make it 3-0 and Anthony Phillips plated two runs with a two-out double. Terry Serrano singled home Phillips to make it 6-0.
"When we had guys in scoring position we didn't try to do too much," Moreno said. "We just tried to put the ball in play. They missed a ground ball and then Phillips hit a ball to the right-field wall. We were patient and we waited for our pitch."
Fueled by a 7-0 start, the AquaSox won the West Division first-half title with a 27-11 record. Led by Kevin Mailloux, who was promoted to Class A a week before the playoffs began, Everett went on to tie a franchise record with 49 wins.
The team led the league in homers and ranked second in runs scored and RBIs. The pitching was equally impressive, topping the eight-team circuit with a 3.22 ERA and sporting two of the best young arms in the league in Fernandez and Chris Sorce.
"This is one of the best teams I have been a part of," Moreno said. "Maybe we don't have the most talent, but we have a lot of heart and passion and team effort, and everybody contributes. The chemistry and atmosphere was huge, and that was the biggest key."