The Wichita Wingnuts entered the season with much of the same pitching staff that dominated the American Association in 2014. Much of their everyday roster, however, underwent a major overhaul that led to a whole new group of instructors coming in to show the Wingnuts Way of doing things. Friday night they showed the Joplin Blasters, the league’s newest team, what that way looks like, as they defeated the Blasters 10-3.
The Wingnuts got on the board first against Joplin starter Nestor Molina. With one out, Alberto Gonzalez singled. T.J. Mittelstaedt followed with a single to right field sending Gonzalez to second. A passed ball allowed both runners to move up 90 feet and Dustin Geiger followed with a ground ball that scored Gonzalez to put Wichita in front for the first time this season.
In the bottom of the second the Blasters tied the score against Wichita starter Tim Brown. Jake Taylor led off the inning with a slow roller that Brown could not make a play on. Steven Tinoco followed with a single sending Taylor to second. Oscar Luna then laid down a perfect bunt, leaving Brown’s only play at first. Jesus Solorzano followed with a hard single to right field that scored Taylor and moved Tinoco to third. The Blasters had the opportunity to grab the lead, but Brent Dean threw out Solorzano trying to steal second and Maikol Gonzalez flew out to end the inning with the score tied at one.
From that point on it was time for the club to return to Wingnuts University, a baseball team that provides nightly lessons on how the game of baseball is to be played. In the top of the fourth Dean singled with one out. Dean moved to second on a ground out making it two outs and a runner at second. Tyler Coughenour walked, bringing up Luis Hernandez, who ripped a double, scoring both runners and putting the Wingnuts back on top.
In the top of the fifth Wingnuts baseball struck again. Mittelstaedt began the inning with a walk against Jon Jones but was picked off. Geiger drew a walk and stole second base. Two batters later John Nester singled scoring Geiger to make it 4-1.
In the sixth Keith Picht relieved for Joplin and he was not greeted very warmly. Jayce Ray was the first batter he faced, and on a 1-o pitch he ripped a Picht offering for a home run making it 5-1. Two batters later Hernandez singled. Following a fly ball out, Mittelstaedt walked to put runners at first and second with two outs. A wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position and Geiger drove both home with a single just past the first baseman. That extended the lead to 7-1.
Wichita remained on a roll, plating three more runs in the top of the seventh. With one out Nester singled and Dean followed with a walk. Ray worked the count full before lining a double that scored both runners. Two batters later Hernandez doubled, scoring Ray and extending the lead to 10-1.
While his team was putting up runs in bunches, Brown was shutting the door on Joplin’s offense. After giving up the run in the second, the Wingnuts starter retired the final 13 batters he faced. He was just awesome on the evening, keeping the Blasters from putting together any kind of offensive attack. Brown (1-0) earned the win, pitching 6 innings, allowing 4 hits, a walk and an earned run, while striking out 2.
The Wichita bullpen shut down the Blasters in the seventh and eighth innings. In the ninth Joplin put two runs on the board. Austin Gallagher singled to lead off the inning. Two batters later Yasser Gomez walked. Both runners moved up on a passed ball, and scored when Taylor singled them home.
The Wingnuts closed out their lesson with a 10-3 victory. The club rapped out 12-hits, led by Hernandez and Ray who each had three hits and three RBI. Taylor had two hits for Joplin.
By Robert Pannier