The Wichita Wingnuts were looking to complete their sweep against the Sioux Falls Canaries and get above .500 for the first time on their three week road trip. A four RBI afternoon by John Nester helped propel the Wingnuts to a 5-3 victory and Casey Harman won his eighth game of the year. That moved Wichita to 3-2 to start their 20 game trip.
The Canaries grabbed the lead with single runs in each of the first two innings. Blake Schmit led off the bottom of the first with a double. Casey Harman retired the next two batters, but Jabari Henry delivered a clutch two-out hit to drive home Schmit to put Sioux Falls up by a run.
Sioux Falls extended their lead an inning later. With one down, Patrick Fiala hit a 2-1 pitch for his fifth homer of the year and it was 2-0.
Jake Esch had allowed three hits through the first two innings, but he kept the Wingnuts off the board. However, in the third, Wichita would jump out in front. Esch struck out the first batter of the inning. Nick Rotola then singled to center before stealing second. Abel Nieves walked and Esch then hit Tony Thomas to load the bases. That brought John Nester to the plate, who drilled a double into left-center. That cleared the bases to put the Wingnuts on top, 3-2.
The Canaries got that run right back in the bottom half of the inning. Schmit singled to start the inning and moved to second on a ground out. He then stole third and scored when the throw from Nester was wild. That tied the game at three.
It would stay tied until the fifth, when the Wichita Wingnuts would retake the lead. Rotola and Nieves led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Two batters later, Nester drove in his fourth run of the game with a sacrifice fly.
After giving up the early runs, Casey Harman (8-2) settled down and held Sioux Falls down. He came out after six, allowing 7-hits, 3-walks, and 2-earned runs. The left-hander struck out 5. Scott Kuzminsky came on in the seventh and tossed two scoreless innings, keeping the Canaries bats at bay.
The offense gave the pitching staff a little breathing room in the eighth. Nester, who was at the center of every rally, singled to start the inning and moved to second when Logan Trowbridge reached on an error. A Hunter Clanin ground out brought Nester home to make it 5-3.
In the ninth, Daniel Tillman came on and retired the side in order to close out the game. That was his American Association leading 18th save of the season.
John Nester led the Wingnuts, going 3-3 with a run and 4-RBI. Nick Rotola was 2-5 with 2-runs scored. Blake Schmit led the Canaries, going 2-5 with 2-runs scored.
The Wichita Wingnuts road show heads east as the team will begin a four-game set with the Chicago Dogs starting Monday night. The first game is Monday and the first pitch is scheduled for 7:05.
By Robert Pannier