It is unlikely that Christian Stringer thinks of himself as some kind of savior, but his big walk-off hit in the ninth gave the Wichita Wingnuts their first win of the season. That ended the team’s chances of starting the season with three straight losses, and made sure that starter Tim Brown’s gem was not wasted.
Brown was opposed by Lincoln Saltdogs starter Ryan O’Sullivan and both pitchers threw a scoreless first inning, with each retiring the side in order. In the second Lincoln was able to plate two runs. Rene Leverett singled to start the inning and moved to second when Pat McKenna singled two batters later. Brown struck out Brandon Jacobs, but Ryan Wiggins delivered a clutch two-run double that made it 2-0.
O’Sullivan continued to hamstring the Wingnuts offense until he came out with some kind of pain in his shoulder after throwing four pitches in the fifth. Jeff McKenzie took over and immediately issued a walk to Harrison Kain. Brent Dean followed with a base hit, and both runners then stole a base to put two in scoring position with no one out. Kain then scored on a fielder’s choice and it was 2-1.
The Wingnuts tied the score in the sixth. Dustin Geiger walked with one out and moved to second on an error by the pitcher who attempted to pick him off first. T.J. Mittelstaedt followed with a single that scored Geiger and the game was knotted at two.
That was the way it would remain as the Wingnuts starter was absolutely dominant. Brown cruised after the second inning, allowing just two hits over the next six innings. He would leave after eight with the score still tied.
Frankie Reed took over in the ninth and gave up a leadoff single. However, a double-play erased the runner before Reed retired the final batter of the inning to keep it tied.
With Wichita needing an early season win, it was time for a little ninth inning dramatics. Kain walked to get the inning started, but then Dean struck out. Richard Prigatano pinch hit and drew a walk as well, putting two on with just one out. That brought Stringer to the plate to face Matt Shepherd. The first pitch from the Saltdogs reliever Stringer ripped up the middle, scoring Kain with the winning run.
Reed (1-1) earned his first victory of the season. Shepherd (0-1) took the loss.
Mittelstaedt finished 2-4 in the game with an RBI. Kain walked twice and scored two runs. The Wingnuts stole four bases in the game.
These two teams will close out their series tomorrow. Eddie Medina will be making his first start of the season for Wichita. He will be opposed by Bennett Parry for Lincoln. Game time is 1:05.
By Robert Pannier