It has been almost three weeks since Eddie Medina made his last appearance, spending the last two-plus weeks on the disabled list, but he returned to pitch an outstanding game in his five innings of work to earn his eighth win of the season. With the 8-3 victory over the St. Paul Saints, the Wichita Wingnuts won their seventh straight division title.
The Wichita Wingnuts took the lead right away in the top of the first. Christian Stringer took the second pitch of the game and drilled it to the wall in left-center, legging it out for a triple. Martin Medina followed with a base hit up the middle and it was 1-0 Wichita. Two batters later T.J. Mittelstaedt fouled off three two-strike pitches to stay alive before singling to put runners at first and second. With two down, Zac Fisher went the other way with a base hit that scored Medina to extend the lead to two. Brennen Salgado followed with a base hit that scored Mittelstaedt to make it 3-0.
Eddie Medina started out on fire for Wichita, striking out the side in the first. He retired the first batter in the second, but Tony Thomas got ahead in the count 3-0, and then drilled a shot the opposite way over the right field wall to make it 3-1. That was his 16th homer of the year.
Wichita responded right away in the top of the third. Mittelstaedt started the frame by lining a double just inside the third base bag that he legged out for a double. Richard Prigatano followed by lining a single up the middle that scored Mittelstaedt to make it 4-1.
In the fourth, St. Paul cut the deficit back to two. Thomas led off the inning by drilling his 17th homer of the season and second of the game deep over the left field wall to make it 4-2. That was the 106th home run of the season hit by the team, tying the franchise record set last season.
In the sixth, it would be time for Wichita to use the long ball. Prigatano led off the inning against Jason Hoppe by crushing his seventh home run of the season over the wall in left-center to extend the lead back to three.
Eddie Medina (8-3) came out after 5-innings. He allowed 4-hits and 2-earned runs. The right-hander walked 3 and struck out 6.
Tyler Kane came on in the sixth, and the St. Paul Saints cut the deficit to two. Dan Johnson led off the inning, and the second pitch he saw he crushed for his third home run since returning to the Saints three-games ago. He became the 18th Saints player to homer in three consecutive games and his home run set the franchise record for home runs in a season with 107.
In the bottom of the seventh, Mike Devine came on and it looked like the Saints would tie the score. Tanner Lubach was hit by a pitch to begin the frame. Devine struck out Jon Kristoffersen before Kes Carter reached on a base hit off the glove of a diving Leo Vargas. Devine then fanned Ben Buerkle before Brady Shoemaker loaded the bases when he singled off the glove of a diving Christian Stringer. With the bases loaded and Dan Johnson at the plate, Devine threw three straight fastballs, striking out Johnson looking to end the threat.
In the ninth, the Wingnuts put this game away with three-more runs. Vargas and Tyler Sullivan started the inning with back-to-back singles putting runners at the corners with no one out. Ivan Vietitez struck out Stringer, before Martin Medina grounded a nubber in front of home plate. Lubach threw to first for the second out, but Vargas came home to score to make it 6-3. Brent Clevlen reached on a base hit, scoring Sullivan to extend the lead to four. That brought Mittelstaedt to the plate, who doubled into left-center, scoring Clevlen all the way from first to make it 8-3.
The victory gave the Wichita Wingnuts a record of 53-34, clinching the South Division. The team has the second best record in the American Association.
T.J. Mittelstaedt had a huge night at the plate for the Wingnuts, going 4-5 with 2-runs and an RBI. Richard Prigatano was 2-5 with a run and 2-RBI. The Saints offense was led by Tony Thomas, who was 2-4 with 2-runs and 2-RBI.
Game 3 of this four-game series is scheduled for tomorrow. Tim Brown (3-3, 7.75) will go for Wichita. He will be opposed by Mark Hamburger (12-6, 3.71). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.
By Robert Pannier