Benjamin Hughes was a living testament Sunday night to what pitching coaches have been teaching for over a century.
If you can locate and change speeds on a good fastball, you don’t need much more to have a great night.
Hughes, a 6-foot-5 right-hander from St. Louis Park, Minn., allowed just one hit and one run to anchor the Tri-City Dust Devils first win of the season, a 3-1 victory over Everett in front of 1,987 fans Gesa Stadium.
“I wanted to keep my fastball down tonight, and moving in and out. I think I only threw about six or so off speed pitches,” Hughes said.
Actually, it was less than five according to catcher Anthony Aguilera, who had two hits and scored the go-ahead run with two outs in the seventh inning.
“I’ve never seen that before,” Aguilera said. “He did an awesome job. They were quick innings, too. Either three on or three out.”Hughes had some good help from relievers Brook Hart and closer Will Rankin, who combined for three scoreless innings. Hart (1-0) picked up the win and Rankin earned his first save with a perfect ninth.
“Obviously, every year we get good pitching. Hughes was outstanding today,” said Tri-City manager Fred Ocasio. “You can tell when a pitcher is on his game. He was keeping the ball down, and he only made one mistake.”
That mistake, a leadoff home run by Chris Taylor in the fourth inning, gave the AquaSox a 1-0 lead against a team that has struggled to drive in runs in the first two games.
But Derek Jones, an eighth-round draft pick by the Colorado Rockies out of Washington State, got the ball rolling in the bottom of the fourth with a leadoff triple — his first professional hit — off Everett starter Dylan Unsworth. After a walk to Jordan Ribera, Francisco Sosa then singled to left to bring home Jones and tie the score at 1.
Things stayed quiet until the bottom of the eighth, thanks to Hughes and Hart, who retired 13 of 15 batters after Taylor’s home run.
That set the stage for Aguilera, who drove a first-pitch two-out single to left off Aquasox reliever Scott DeCecco to spark a Dust Devils rally. DeCecco then hit Joey Wong with a pitch, and Charlie Blackmon followed with a soft line drive to second baseman Ketel Marte, who leaped for the ball but was charged with an error when it bounced of his glove.
Aguilera scored on the play to give Tri-City a 2-1 lead. The third-year catcher out of La Habra, Calif., finished 2-for-4 to raise his average to .286.
“We just got key base hits to get us going. You don’t want to trail 2-1, you want to get the momentum back,” he said. “It’s always good to get that first win so you don’t have to press. It’s nice to see our hard work paying off.”
Jarod Berggren, who took over for Jones in right field in the sixth inning, then took Dominic Leone’s 2-2 pitch the opposite way, driving a slider into right field to score Wong for a 3-2 lead.
“Berggren got a chance when Jones went out, and he came up big,” Ocasio said. “We put together some good at bats and took advantage of their mistakes.”
DeCecco (0-1) took the loss for the AquaSox, allowing two unearned runs on two hits in the seventh.
Notes: Today’s pitching matchup will be RHP Peter Tago for Tri-City against RHP Seon Gi Kim for Everett. ... Dust Devils OF Jaron Shepherd, who was diagnosed with a broken right hand after being hit by a pitch Friday, said he will have surgery and rehab for “6-to-8 weeks”.