Brent Clevlen continues to show why he is the top player in a very talented lineup, as he went 4-5 Saturday night, with three runs scored, six RBI and two home runs. The center fielder raised his average to .347 on the season, and now has 11 home runs and 56 RBI.
Just like on the previous night, the Wingnuts got things going with a big early inning. After recording a run in the second when David Amberson beat out a ground ball that allowed Clevlen to score, the Wingnuts went to work in the top of the third. With one out Jake Kahaulelio singled to center and David Espinosa followed with a walk. Clevlen then took Saints starter Jeff Shields deep to center field for a three-run homer and a 4-0 Wingnuts lead. The inning was not over by any stretch of the imagination however. One out later Chris McMurray doubled down the left field line, and would score when Chris McClendon followed with a single up the middle. After McClendon advanced to third on a stolen base and a single by Amberson, he would score on a wild pitch by Shields, and Wichita would leave the inning ahead 6-0.
In the bottom of the inning the Saints got one back when C Jake Taylor turned on a pitch and belted it over the left field wall for his third home run of the season. However, St. Paul was in a big hole, and they needed to shut down the Wichita offense if they were going to get back into the game. That is not what happened however.
With one out Kahalulelio singled to right field and Espinosa walked. Clearly Shields did not have his best stuff and he was replaced by righty MacKenzie King. The bleeding did not stop however. Clevlen walked and Kahaulelio scored on a sacrifice fly by Carlo Testa to make it 7-1.
In the fifth inning Amberson singled with one out and Jake Luce followed with a single to right. One out later Kahaulelio walked and King found himself in some trouble with two outs in the inning. The righty then bounced one in the dirt that scored Amberson, and it was an 8-1 Wichita lead.
The score would remain 8-1 until the sixth when the Saints would mount a rally, and actually had a chance to tie the score. Devin Thaud led off with a single into the right field corner. One out out later Willie Cabrera doubled to center scoring Thaud. Wrigley then walked and Angelo Songco followed that with a double that scored Cabrera and moved Wrigley to third. Wichita manager Kevin Hooper then paid a visit to his laboring starter, but had no intention of pulling him. In fact, he did not even have anyone up in the bullpen at the time. Evan Bigley then came to bat and hit one that bounced off of shortshop Ryan Khoury’s glove, scoring Wrigley, and closing the gap to an 8-4 lead for the Wingnuts.
There was still only one out, and two on as Taylor came to the plate. He had homered earlier and the crowd was fired up hoping he could add to the theatrics of the inning. Taylor worked the count to 3-2 before striking out swinging on a good curve from Link, and then Link would strike out Jared McDonald to end the inning and put a stop to the rally.
The Saints had to be feeling pretty good about their chances, but would quickly see them crushed in the top of the seventh. King got the first two batters of the inning out, but then gave up a single to Kahaulelio, who promptly stole second and advanced to third when the pitch bounced in the dirt away from catcher Taylor. Danny Espinosa then grounded to shortstop Joey Becker who could not get a handle the ball, and the error kept the inning alive and allowed Kahaulelio to score. The next batter up was Clevlen and he took the first pitch he saw deep for a two-run homer. Down 11-4, the home crowd began to exit the stadium.
St. Paul would add a run in the bottom of the seventh when Wrigley drove home Thaut. That run would be negated in the ninth when Clevlen drove home his sixth run of the game to provide the final score of the game. The score ended 12-5, and moved the Saints just one game ahead of the Laredo Lemurs for the top Wild Card spot.
The Wichita Wingnuts gained a half game in the standings over Laredo who was rained out and now have an 8.5 game lead in the South Division. The Wingnuts also won their fourth straight game, and send their ace Jason Van Skike to the mound Saturday night against league ERA leader Anthony Claggett.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Baseball Editor
Member of the IBWAA