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Timberjacks rough up Everett ace

The Southern Oregon Timberjacks chased one of the Northwest League's premier pitchers early, but it wasn't until they chalked up seven runs in the seventh inning that they ditched the Everett AquaSox Saturday night at Miles Field.

The Timberjacks blew an early 4-0 lead before ultimately prevailing 11-4 to extend their Southern Division lead to two games over Portland. The Rockies dropped a 2-1 decision at Spokane.

Southern Oregon paraded 11 batters to the plate in the seventh, taking a 7-4 advantage on a bases-loaded walk to Matt Forbes and run-scoring base hits by Jeremy Schied and Jason Clements off Kevin Olore, Everett's third pitcher.

Jose De La Cruz put a capper on the rally, smacking a 3-1 pitch for a grand slam off the left-field wall, his first home run in 42 at-bats this summer.

I was waiting for a fastball because the last two pitches had been breaking balls, and I got it, said De La Cruz. If he throws me another breaking ball, I don't know what happens. His change-up and slider were good, but I was still waiting for the fastball.

The Timberjacks expected a lot of breaking balls from Everett left-hander Craig Anderson, who entered the night with an 8-1 record and the second-best ERA in the NWL at 3.02. The 18-year-old from New South Wales, Australia has been rather sensational in his first season on American soil.

When Anderson faced the Timberjacks on June 27 in Everett, they melted like putty at the plate. Anderson tagged the Timberjacks with a 4-0 setback that night, allowing one hit in six innings, striking out 11 and walking one.

Last game, he had everything working, his curve, his slider, said Southern Oregon right fielder Michael Lockwood. He kept us off-balance. But we made adjustments tonight. We knew we'd get a lot of off-speed stuff. I was looking away and adjusting if he came inside.

Anderson gave up seven hits and four earned runs in — innings, the shortest of his 12 starts.

The Timberjacks stung Anderson for a run in the first inning but wasted an opportunity to put the AquaSox ace in a deep hole.

We were more patient this time, said leadoff hitter Carlos Rosario, who had two of the Timberjacks' 11 hits. We wanted to get people on base and run on him.

Rosario's single was followed by Brad Henderson's ground-rule double, and a walk to Lockwood loaded the bases. But Anderson hasn't been one of the NWL's dominant pitchers without cause. He induced a ground ball double play off clean-up hitter Matt Howe's bat that allowed Rosario to score. Then An-derson struck out Kirk Asche to minimize the damage.

Southern Oregon extended its lead to 3-0 in the third inning when Rosario, Henderson and Lockwood spanked consecutive doubles with one out. But again, the TJs squandered an opportunity to inflict more damage when Lockwood took off for third on Howe's grounder to shortstop and was tagged out by Victor Martinez.

An error and a hustle play by Matt Forbes hastened Anderson's departure with one out in the fourth inning.

Forbes reached base when Ariel Durango booted his grounder then advanced to third on Schied's single. Forbes detected left fielder Wilfredo Martinez poking toward the ball and zipped to third. One out later, Anderson hit De La Cruz to load the bases. But reliever Steve Kent limited the damage to one more run on Rosario's ground out to second.

The AquaSox nearly got Anderson off the hook in the sixth inning when they sent nine men to the plate.

With one out, Durango singled, took second on a wild pitch and scored on Martinez's single. Then Terrmel Sledge hammered a double to put runners on second and third for Chris Snelling, who singled home Martinez. Two walks later, Sledge scored, ending Southern Oregon starter Keith Surkont's evening. But reliever Jay Crawford registered two quick outs.

Everett tied it in the seventh without a hit. Crawford struck out Durano, but the ball eluded De La Cruz and Durango reached on a passed ball. He stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. When Sledge got caught in a rundown, attempting to steal second, Durango broke for home and beat De La Cruz's tag.

But the tie was short-lived.

Since we've been in first all year, teams have been looking forward to playing us and every game is a battle, said Crawford, who earned his second win in as many decisions. Sometimes it's been harder to focus. All those runs made it easier.