In just his fourth game as a Wichita Wingnuts player, Andy LaRoche is proving that his new club is to his liking. LaRoche’s grand slam, along with the two-run homer hit by Harrison Kain earlier in the game, backed Wingnuts ace Tim Brown in a 7-1 Wichita victory. The win kept the team four games up on the Joplin Blasters. The loss dropped Laredo six back of Wichita
This was a key series for the Lemurs, who needed a sweep to get themselves back into the race for the South Division title. Matt Loosen started for Laredo and he looked sharp in the first inning. He walked Jayce Ray to lead off the game, but then retired the next three hitters to end the inning.
In the second he issued another lead-off walk, this time to Matt Padgett, but then got John Nester to fly out. Kain was the next hitter, and he worked the count full before drilling the seventh pitch of the at-bat for a two-run homer, his fifth of the year.
Brown gave up a lead-off single in the first, but Nester removed the runner from the base paths by throwing out Ty Morrison attempting to steal second. In the bottom of the second Denis Phipps got a run back for the Lemurs when he began the inning with his 1oth home run of the season.
It was a joyous moment for the Lemurs, but the last one they would get against the right-hander. From there Brown took command of the game. Two of the first three hitters reached base on singles in the third, but the Wingnuts right-hander was masterful. With runners at first and third, he induced a grounder back to the mound and threw home to eliminate the lead runner. A walk loaded the bases, but Brown retired Phipps on a fly out to center to maintain the one-run lead.
The Lemurs recorded a two-out single in the fourth, then Brown retired the next seven hitters he faced. A single by Dustin Geiger to begin the seventh broke the string, and the Laredo Lemurs would have first and second with one out after Juan Silverio singled, but Brown struck out Ty Forney and got Morrison to fly out to keep the lead.
Brown’s performance was masterful and the club really needed it. The Wichita Wingnuts clung to a one-run lead for much of the contest. In the seven the visitors blew it open. Taylor Smart singled to begin the inning and Leo Vargas reached on an error that moved Smart to third. Ray drew a walk, and that would be it for Loosen.
The Lemurs starter had pitched a gem, but his team had no answers for Brown. Loosen finished the day with 6-plus innings pitched, 4 hits, 5 walks and 5 earned runs, 4 were earned. He also struck out 7.
BJ Hyatt came on in relief, but he would have little success. He struck out the first hitter he faced, but T.J. Mittelstaedt’s sharp single to center scored Smart to make it 3-1. LaRoche was the next hitter. On a 1-1 pitch he hit his first home run in a Wingnuts uniform for grand slam. That gives him eight RBI already in just four games since joining the team.
Brown gave up two hits in the bottom of the eighth inning, but continued his Houdini routine, getting the final two hitters out without any runs scoring. Brown moved to 9-2 on the season. With 22 games left for Wichita, he should make at least five more starts, giving the right-hander a chance to tie or break his single season high in victories (13).
LaRoche finished the day 2-4 with a run scored and 4 RBI. Kain was also 2-4 with a run, and he drove in 2. Morrison and Phipps both had 2 hits for Laredo.
By Robert Pannier