Clevlen, Nieves Power Wichita Wingnuts to 8th Straight Win: Wingnuts Wire
The Wichita Wingnuts won their eighth straight game Friday night, clinching at least a tie for the South Division while downing the Laredo Lemurs for the second straight night. The win moved Laredo 10.5 games behind Wichita, and is making a clear statement that Laredo may be a really good team, but they are not up to the standards of Wichita yet. While the normal cast of characters did their part, an unlikely member of the faculty stepped in to make a key contribution.
The Wingnuts got on the board early, with a huge five-run second inning. Abel Nieves, who went 4-4 on the night, singled with one out. Carlo Testa then reached on an error and Chris McMurray singled to load the bases. On a 1-1 pitch, Chris McClendon singled scoring Nieves and keeping the bases loaded. Circle K hero Ryan Khoury followed with a single that scored Testa and McMurray and the Wingnuts were up 3-0. Jake Luce followed Khoury with a single of his own that brought Khoury home and one batter later McClendon scored the fifth run of the inning.
That was plenty enough for Wingnuts University Vice-Chancellor Luke Robertson. The 35-year-old is the Wingnuts pitching coach, but after scheduled starter Jon Link signed with the Miami Marlins, the team needed an emergency starter and they felt that Robertson was the best option for them to turn to. He rewarded their faith. Making his first professional appearance in two years, and only his second in ten, the Vice-Chancellor delivered a stellar performance, pitching five innings of six-hit, two earned run ball. He walked just one, while striking out two on the night to earn his first victory since 2003 when he was with the Oakland Athletics organization.
Robertson left with the Wingnuts leading Laredo 6-3. Antony Capra relieved in the sixth and gave up a run on two hits to turn the game into a nail-biter. Chris Peacock, making his first appearance since being signed by the team, added to the drama by putting two on with two outs before getting the final out of the seventh. The team needed a little cushion to feel more confident about their position. Who better to turn to than their Dean?
Likely league MVP Brent Clevlen gave the Wingnuts the cushion they needed. In the eighth he led off the inning with his 19th home run of the year, and one inning later his two-out double plated Chris McClendon to increase the lead to 8-4. For the game the Wingnuts center fielder finished 3-5 with two runs and two RBI.
Nieves has looked especially hot of late and has overcome a bit of a slow start after joining the Wingnuts from Grand Prairie. He went 2-5 his first game with Wichita, but followed that up with back-to-back 0-4 games. In the last three he has caught fire, going 10-14 with four runs and three RBI. That includes two straight four-hit games, including last night’s perfect 4-4 performance.
The win clinched the South Division for the Wingnuts and made them the first team in league history to win the North, Central and South division crowns. The two teams face off again tonight with Laredo looking to get back in the win column.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Baseball Editor
Member of the IBWAA