AppleSox elated with 12-3 start
Tuesday, June 19, 2012View full version
WENATCHEE — Wenatchee AppleSox manager Ed Knaggs and trusted confidante Rob Hippi didn’t talk about the team’s grueling start to the season until it was over.
On the way down to Klamath Falls, after the team had gone 8-2 in its 10-games-in-10-days marathon, the two coaches concluded that they would have been satisfied with 5-5 in that stretch.
“Without question, we’re really excited about it,” Knaggs said by phone Tuesday on a rare off day for the Sox. “We attribute that to the players that were with us, the temporary guys that did a really good job while they were here.”
Two of those guys — pitcher Beau Kerns and utility man Gerhard Muelheims — impressed enough to earn full-year contracts with the Sox, who are now 12-3 heading into a two-game non-league set at Paul Thomas Sr. Stadium tonight and Thursday.
Wenatchee clinched its fourth straight series victory by taking the first and third games of a three-game set against Cowlitz over the weekend, and are a half-game in front of Bellingham in the West Coast League’s East Division.
“The issues are always how the guys play together, how they work every day and health,” Knaggs said. “We’ve already had some health issues, but the other things have been good. These guys haven’t been around each other that long. We haven’t been building up team chemistry since September. It’s always interesting to see to see how each team’s personality starts to grow.”
Gunsolus swinging it
Wenatchee third baseman Mitchell Gunsolus, a rising sophomore at Gonzaga, has been among the best hitters in the West Coast League this summer, appearing in all 15 of Wenatchee’s games.
Gunsolus is hitting .456 with a league-best 26 hits, and Knaggs is especially impressed with his approach in the clutch.
“He’s had a very impressive start, and has been our big-hit guy now that Conner Huesers has left,” Knaggs said. “He’s got a swing where he keeps his bat in the strike zone quite a while, and he doesn’t swing a lot of poort pitches. He uses the whole field.”
Gunsolus went 7-for-14 with three runs scored and two RBI in the series against Cowlitz.
As much as he can, Knaggs plans to give guys like Gunsolus and Steve Ventimilia, who have been with the team since opening day, a day or two off during this week’s series against the Central Oregon Bucks.
The Bucks are a feeder team for the WCL’s Bend Elks.
“(Outfielder) Jeff Stephens just got her last night, and (Taylor) Sparks and (Ryan) Howell have just been here a few days, so it’ll be nice to get them two games worth of at-bats and time in the field,” Knaggs said.
The two new pitchers that will be in town for the series, Oregon State’s Riley Wilkerson and UCLA-bound high schooler James Kaprielian, should see the mound against the Bucks.
In other roster news, outfielder Taylor Wattenberg is out for the summer with a torn abdominal muscle.
Wattenberg goes to Pacific Lutheran, but his family moved to Chelan in the last year.
He hit .182 with two RBI for the Sox, but hasn’t played since the first series of the summer at Bellingham.
Knaggs and AppleSox fans have been watching with pride all week as nine players with ties to the team have suited up for UCLA in the College World Series this week and last.
Six Bruins — Pat Valaika, Cody Keefer, Trevor Brown, Zack Weiss, Eric Filia-Snyder and Zack Ortiz — have played for the Sox, and two others — Adam Plutko and Jeff Gelalich — were slated to come to Wenatchee before plans changed.
Another UCLA guy, outfielder Chris Keck, pinch-hit for the Bruins in Omaha on Saturday.
“It’s so exciting for those guys to have that kind of experience,” Knaggs said. “A couple of those characters have been in that atmosphere before as freshmen, so they understand where they’re at and what they’re doing.”
Weiss got the start on the mound, and Keefer, Brown, Valaika and Gelalich were all in the lineup for the Bruins Tuesday, but UCLA was eliminated by Florida State.