For the second straight night the Wichita Wingnuts scored four runs against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, only to watch the lead evaporate. The previous night the home team walked away with the victory when they got a walk-off hit in the ninth inning to make them the 5-4 victors. This night it would be the Wingnuts that would return the favor, getting an Alberto Gonzalez single in the ninth inning to send Wichita to the 5-4 win, keeping them tied with the Joplin Blasters for first place in the South Division of the American Association.
The Wichita Wingnuts took the lead in the top of the first against RedHawks starter Austin Kirk. With one out Luis Hernandez doubled and scored on a single by David Espinosa.
In the third both teams would plate a run. In the top of the third Espinosa came through again. Following a walk to Jayce Ray, Hernandez laid down a perfect bunt to move Ray to second. Espinosa followed by lining a single that drove home Ray, giving the Wingnuts a 2-0 lead.
The RedHawks came right back in the bottom half of the inning against starter Anthony Capra. Zach Penprase doubled to begin the frame, and Brent Peterson walked to put runners at first and second. A perfect sacrifice by Chad Mozingo moved both runners into scoring position, and a ground out by Frank Salerno, who had delivered the game winning hitting last night, drove home Penprase. That made it a one-run Wingnuts lead.
Wichita responded to the RedHawks run by getting two in the top of the fourth, with the rally beginning with two outs. Dustin Geiger doubled and after stealing third base, scored on a double by Taylor Oldham. Oldham came home on a single by Ray, who was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double.
With the exception of the third inning, Capra had pitched quite well. The left-hander retired the side in order in the second and fourth innings, and was really showcasing that dominant change up of his.
In the fifth, a couple of big hits hurt the Wingnuts starter. Penprase got the rally going again with another double, and came home two batters later when Mozingo lined a shot to the wall that he stretched into a triple. Salerno then grounded a shot to first that should have been the final out, but the Wingnuts first baseman misplayed the ball, allowing Mozingo to score. That made the lead just one again.
In the bottom of the sixth Fargo-Moorhead tied it up. Drew Muren singled to begin the inning and moved to second on a single by Stefan Gartrell. A walk to Michael Antonio loaded the bases with one out, prompting Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper to make a pitching change. Daniel Bennett came in and hit Joe Staley, sending Muren home to tie the game. Penprase grounded into a double-play to end the inning, but it was looking like déjà vu all over again.
For the next three innings the clubs’ bullpens did the job. Bennett and Daniel Carela kept the RedHawks off the scoreboard through the eighth, as did Mike Noteware for Fargo-Moorhead.
Ty Kelley had relieved in the eighth for the RedHawks and retired the final batter. He came out in the ninth to keep the game tied, but the Wichita Wingnuts had other plans for the right-hander. With one out Espinosa walked and moved to third on a base hit by TJ Mittelstaedt. That brought Gonzalez to the plate with two outs. On a 1-1 pitch, Gonzalez singled to right-center, scoring Espinosa and giving the Wingnuts the lead again.
In the ninth Hooper turned to Dr. K, Matt Nevarez, to close out another game for the team. The big righty walked two of the first three batters he faced, but then got Mozingo to fly out and struck out Salerno to end the game. The final score was 5-4.
Carela (1-0) earned the win a perfect eighth inning of relief where he struck out two of the three batters he faced. Nevarez continued the best start to a season of his career, earning his fourth save. Kelley (0-2) took the loss.
By Robert Pannier
Follow the Wichita Wingnuts season with Short Hops with Kevin Hooper. This show gives you, the fans, the opportunity to gain insights from the club’s Skipper.