Class Is in Session: Dr. Van Skike Provides Dominant Lesson Against Saltdogs: Wingnuts Wire
This past weekend the Wichita Wingnuts and their fans got to enjoy finally seeing their team play at home at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. After 22 days on the road, it was nice to finally see their first place club play baseball. They were well rewarded for the long wait as the team swept the Grand Prairie AirHogs, and got three dominant starts out of Anthony Capra, Tim Brown and Jon Link in the series.
In came the Central Division leading Lincoln Saltdogs, who had taken two of three at home last week against the Wingnuts. While Wichita did not need a victory to keep their substantial lead over the Laredo Lemurs, they did want to make a statement to the Lincoln Saltdogs. There was no one better to deliver that statement than Dr. Jason Van Skike, the team’s top faculty member on their rotation.
Dr. Van Skike had a whole lesson plan ready for Lincoln, and the Saltdogs got a valuable teaching as class was in session. Van Skike watched his rotation mates dominate the AirHogs to the tune of no earned runs in 20 innings of work. He wanted to get in on the run as well, and that is what he did. The right-hander breezed through the first five innings. While not dominating with strikeouts, he commanded the plate and counted on his defense to make plays, which is what they did.
He allowed the lead-off hitter to reach base in each of the first two innings, hitting Chad Mozingo in the first, and walking Brian Joynt in the second. In the second inning Joynt’s walk was followed by a single by Mike Gilmartin, and it looked like the Doc may be in a bit of trouble. No concerns though. He recorded his only strike out of the game to get the first out, and then got a popout to David Espinosa and a flyball to center to end the inning.
In the bottom of the second, the team staked their ace to a 3-0 lead. Carlo Testa singled to lead-off the inning, and Chris McMurray drew a walk to put two on with no one out. Chris McClendon’s ground out moved both runners into scoring position, and brought Taylor Oldham to the plate. Oldham had a huge weekend series against the AirHogs, delivering several key hits, and he would do so in this game as well. Oldham singled to score both McMurray and Testa and the Wingnuts were up 2-0. After an error and a wild pitch moved Oldham to third, Jared McDonald hit a flyball to center that plated Oldham and it was 3-0 before the inning was over.
That was all the support that Van Skike needed. He gave up a single in both the third and fourth innings, but no real threat came in either frame. In the fifth he retired the side in order, working the plate and keeping the Saltdogs hitters off balanced.
In the bottom of the fifth his teammates increased his lead. With two outs Jake Luce doubled. David Espinosa then followed with a single that scored Luce, and Espinosa scored on an error by LF Matt Forgatch. That made the score 5-0.
In the top of the sixth, Lincoln was finally able to get on the board when Jon Gaston led off the inning with his 10th home run of the year. One out later Brian Joynt doubled, but Van Skike stayed cool, getting the next two hitters to ground out to end the threat.
That would be his last inning of work. As the Dean of the starting rotation Van Skike wanted to show he too had lessons to teach opponents, and that is what he did, pitching six innings and allowing just six hits and one walk in his 1oth win of the season. The win was a huge start for the righty, as he had struggled since the All-Star break yielding 14 runs in 18.2 innings of work, but not tonight. Tonight he was on his game, and the Saltdogs learned how good this young man is.
The Saltdogs attempted to rally in the ninth. Justin Klipp entered the inning after breezing through the eighth, but he got himself into a little trouble. Gilmartin led off the inning with his fifth home run of the season, and after a single to Forgatch and a walk to Chris Anderson one out later, Klipp’s night was over. New closer Alex Hinshaw entered the game, and after Anderson was caught trying to steal second, Chad Mozingo struck out to earn Hinshaw his fourth save of the season.
The victory sent a clear signal to the Saltdogs that they may have won two of three last week, but now they were at the campus of Wingnuts U. They had better bring their A+ game if they were intending to beat Dr. Van Skike and his colleagues. They did not do so, and Wichita came away with the decisive 6-2 win.
The two teams face-off again Tuesday night. Lefty Frank Del Valle will head to the mound for Wichita against Lincoln ace Marquis Fleming.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Baseball Editor
Member of the IBWAA