Big Inning Leads Wichita Wingnuts Over St. Paul Saints
The St. Paul Saints came out of the All-Star break with a lot of momentum and a great deal of incentive to make a statement against the American Association leading Wichita Wingnuts. However, it was the team from Kansas that showed why they had eight members on the All-Star team, as they downed the Saints 9-3.
Neither team was able to score in the first inning, but in the second the Wingnuts put together a huge inning against Saints starter Nick Barnese. All-Star Brent Clevlen led off with a line drive that first baseman Angelo Songco made an amazing leaping catch on. After that all hell broke loose.
Carlo Testa singled just past the reach of Songco and C Chris McMurray followed with a double to the wall in left center field. Testa, running hard, came around to score, and Wichita was up 1-0. 3B Chris McClendon then followed with a single to left that moved McMurray to third, and then David Amberson walked to load the bases. LF Jake Luce, who has been on an absolute tear since signing with Wichita, lined a double to the wall in right-center field, clearing the bases and quickly the Wingnuts were up 4-0. SS Ryan Khoury then singled off of shortstop Joey Becker’s glove, driving in Luce to make it 5-0. 2B Jake Kahaulelio would follow with a single before David Espinosa would fly to right. Saints killer Brent Clevlen then singled to right field scoring Khoury, and the second inning would end with Wichita winning 6-0.
Drew Gay replaced Barnese in the top of the third, and would be treated rather rudely right off. McMurray singled off of second baseman Willie Cabrera’s glove, and one out later was forced out on a fielder’s choice by Amberson to make it two outs. Luce then laid down a perfect bunt down the third base line and beat it out to make it runners on first and second, and following Amberson stealing third, Khoury would single to left field, scoring Amberson and making it 7-0.
After that Gay would settle down and hold the Wingnuts scoreless for the next four innings. The problem was that Wichita starter Tim Brown was just lights out through the first four, and he was not allowing the Saints to mount any kind of a rally. Despite allowing six hits in the first four innings, Brown was keeping St. Paul off of the scoreboard, and frustrating the team from Minnesota.
In the top of the fifth inning the Saints would finally get on the board. DH Devin Thaut singled to center field and advanced to second on a slow rolling ground out by 2B Sam Maus. Willie Cabrera singled to left center field but Thaut was held at third. This drew the ire of the crowd, who thought that he would have easily scored. No worries though, as 3B Henry Wrigley grounded into a fielder’s choice to score Thaut, and the Saints were on the board.
The score would remain the same until both teams scored in the eighth. With Gay still pitching for St. Paul, Khoury walked with one out, and Kahaulelio followed with his fifth home run of the season. Gay would settle down to retire the final two batters of the eighth.
In the bottom of the eighth Daniel Bennett came in to pitch for Wichita. Songco singled to right field to start the inning, and advanced on a broken bat hit by Evan Bigley. Keith Brachold attempted to bunt, but Bennett quickly grabbed the ball which dropped about five feet to his right, turned and fired to Kahaulelio to force Bigley, but Songco advanced to third. Becker then followed with a single scoring Songco, and after Jake Taylor popped out, Thaut hit a ball to first that Espinosa fielded cleanly, but as he turned to throw to the pitcher covering first, he slipped allowing all runners to reach safely, including Brachold scoring to make it 9-3.
That would be the end of the scoring. Gay would retire the Winguts 1-2-3 in the ninth, and Mike Zouzalik would pitch an impressive ninth for Wichita to close it out. The Wingnuts righty struck out two, and only allowed a hot shot single that went through Espinosa’s legs.
Both teams had 15 hits on the night, but it was the Wingnuts who used the huge second inning to catapult them to victory. McMurray had the perfect night at 4-4 with a run and an RBI. For St. Paul both Thaut and Cabrera had three hits.
Brown picked up the victory, moving him to 8-3 on the season. He has been a pure stud in their rotation walking just 12 batters in 96 innings pitching, while striking out 60, and posting a 3.37 ERA. Barnese took the loss dropping him to 5-6 on the year. Gay pitched very well in relief of the Saints starter, going seven innings and only allowing three earned runs.
The two teams will continue their series on Friday night as Wichita sends right-hander Jon Link to the mound to face righty Jeff Shields.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Baseball Editor
Member of the IBWAA