Short-season Everett has made a habit of winning close games. Its first-half division clincher on Friday night was no different.
Dylan Unsworth allowed a run on five hits over seven innings and the AquaSox pushed across runs in the second and seventh to edge the Yakima Bears, 2-1, wrapping up the Northwest League West Division title.
Eighteen of Everett's 26 first-half wins have been by three runs or fewer. And manager Rob Mummau said his team has shown a remarkable knack for prevailing in tight contests.
"We've had a ton of come-from-behind wins and extra-inning wins," he said. "Our first home series against Spokane, we had two come-from-behind wins where we were down two going into the last inning and battled back. I think that built the confidence for our team and it's carried through so far."
Mummau also pointed to the AquaSox's balanced offense and standout defense for wrapping up a postseason berth. Everett shares the league lead with 25 homers and is first with 57 stolen bases, contributing to an NWL-best 187 runs.
"We have a pretty good combination of speed and power, so that's helped offensively," Mummau said. "Then our defense has been really good, too, making key plays at key times. We have a little bit of everything."
Unsworth (5-0) has been the team's most reliable starter. The South Africa native lowered his ERA to 3.32 and has 35 strikeouts against only 13 walks in 40 2/3 innings. Victor Sanchez, a 17-year-old right-hander, is 4-1 with a 4.01 ERA and 32 strikeouts over 42 2/3 innings.
Christopher Taylor leads the AquaSox with a .331 average, Patrick Kivlehan has hit six homers and Taylor Ard is tops with 27 RBIs. Mike Zunino, the third overall pick in this year's Draft, joined the team last week and is batting .458 with three homers in seven games.
Mummau said the players appreciated being part of a winning culture.
"Obviously, it's important to develop players as far as teaching them the game and getting the most of their ability, but it's also about teaching a winning attitude and expecting to win each game, especially these close ones," he explained. "You want them to have that confidence to be able to make that play or make a pitch when they have to or get a hit. Situations like tonight build that confidence and carry throughout their Minor League career."