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Minor League Playoff Special: Day 7

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The Generals inch closer to the championship as the AquaSox fall

Cody Cunningham/Jackson Generals

You know the drill by now. Playoff games were played and recaps were recapped. There were only two games last night, but it was perhaps the most eventful night so far, with one season ending and another being brought to within a single game of eternal bliss. Let’s get to it:

Jackson Generals 2 - Mississippi Braves 0 (AA)

Jackson leads best-of-five CHAMPIONSHIP series, 2-0

It was another pitcher’s duel in Jackson tonight, with Brett Ash facing off against the Braves’ big lefty Sean Newcomb, who was acquired in the Andrelton Simmons trade. But it was Ash, the undrafted, Division II school pitcher, who came out on top tonight, tossing seven innings of shutout ball while striking out four and issuing no free passes. Ash finished his night at just 77 pitches, 57 of which were strikes, while Newcomb needed 106 pitches to work through six innings. The Southern League leader in strikeouts did get the Generals for five Ks, but also issued 3 BBs (one of which was intentional). Ash had some help from his defense; the game started off with back-to-back defensive gems on a nice diving catch by Leon Landry on a fly ball off the bat of rehabbing MLBer Mallex Smith, followed by a nice snare at third by Adam Law. But probably the most important defensive play came in the third inning. The Braves had two on after back-to-back singles to start the inning and two out when Dustin Peterson hit a line drive to right field and Tyler O’Neill made a run-saving diving catch. Tyler O’Neill is ours and you can’t have him.

The Generals finally got on the board in the fifth when Adam Law, traded to the Mariners from the Dodgers organization, hit a solo home run. Adam Law had never hit a home run in his four years with the Dodgers organization; since joining the Generals, he has three, plus today’s no-doubter to give the Generals a lead they would never relinquish. In the sixth Leon Landry would work a walk off of Newcomb, and Tyler Marlette would double him home to give Jackson all the offense they needed on the day to secure a decisive game two victory. Ryne Harper and his filthy, filthy curveball came on to work the final two innings of the game, and he proceeded to get four strikeouts in a row, slicing through the heart of the Braves’ order, before getting Joey Meneses to fly out to end the game and earn Harper his first save of the postseason (seventh overall). The Generals get a day off tomorrow before they go for a championship sweep in Mississippi on Thursday at 5:00 PST. Go, Generals, go!

Everett AquaSox 1 - Eugene Emeralds 2

Eugene wins series, 2-1

There’s a certain charm to minor league baseball.

Maybe it’s the creepy yet surprisingly adorable mascots. Maybe it’s the dollar hot dog promotions. Maybe it’s the fact that you’re watching a collection of players so passionate about the game that they’re willing to play for an embarrassingly-small amount of money. A very select few play with the notion that it’s a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’ they make the majors. Most fall somewhere between long shots and players who don’t want to finally let go. Regardless, it’s a very easy group to cheer for, and watching them get any bit of glory is always a pleasure.

The Everett AquaSox did not win their baseball game on Tuesday night. They fell to the Eugene Emeralds, 2-1, in the final game of the Northwest League Championship. Bryson Brigman and Kristian Brito each collected two hits and the pitchers were dandy. Everett was good; Eugene was, for one night, ever so slightly better. The AquaSox came close to scoring a second run, but the Emeralds’ catcher decided Brigman didn’t need a sliding lane:

Honestly, Brigman may still be thrown out even if he has a lane. I’ve watched the play a dozen times at least, and it would’ve been pretty close. The AquaSox’s frustration is understandable, though, as they lost star outfielder Kyle Lewis to a knee injury on a very similar play earlier this season.

And as much as I’d love to sit at this here computer and lament about what went wrong, I just honestly don’t have it in me to say a bad thing about this team. They don’t deserve it, not after the year they just put together. Let’s review that instead:

  • The Everett AquaSox went 27-11 in the second half of the season. That is a .711 winning percentage. The team did not get a free slushy for the performance, but they did finish just a smidge under the 2001 Seattle Mariners’ winning percentage.
  • Eric Filia, a 20th round pick out of UCLA this year, posted a 168 wRC+ over 292 plate appearances, snagging the NWL Player of the Year award in the process. Not bad for a guy who was out of the game for two years.
  • They got to play alongside several Mariners throughout the year, including Felix Hernandez, Charlie Furbush, Nick Vincent, Ketel Marte, and Wade Miley. Years from now, when they’re old and Felix is old and a documentary about the Mariners’ miraculous playoff run in 2016 airs on a TV screen in a cozy, Washington home, they can lean down and tell their grandkids all about that time they played alongside the King.
  • They played (and won!) at Safeco Field. Please see the bullet point above this one.
  • Several players turned in strong professional debuts, including Nick Zammarelli, David Greer, Donnie Walton, Brandon Miller, Thomas Burrows, and countless others.
  • They perfected the art of pimping a walk-off.
  • They wore amazing uniforms
  • They were good.

The 2016 Everett AquaSox were one of the more entertaining groups to follow in MiLB this year. All summer long, they C’d the Z and kicked ass while doing it. Yes, they came up a game short, but I love them all the same.

So here’s to the Everett AquaSox and their one fantastic summer. Plenty of the players will be in the organization for years to come. A few might play for the Mariners. Some we may never see play professional baseball again. But in the time and space between June 15th and September 13th, they were one. And in that time they were wonderful.