John Nester’s Clutch Hit Sends Wichita Wingnuts to Deciding Game 5
It was crunch time in Wichita for the second night in a row, as the Wichita Wingnuts faced elimination at the hands of the Laredo Lemurs. For the second night in a row the Wingnuts rose to the occasion to win, this time 5-3, forcing a deciding Game 5 tomorrow night in Wichita.
Luis Pollorena faced off against Jason Van Skike for the Wingnuts. Both pitchers retired the side in the first, but in the second Wichita grabbed the lead. Andy LaRoche led off with a walk and scored when T.J. Mittelstaedt laced a triple to make it 1-0. John Nester’s single into left field scored Mittelstaedt, and the Wichita Wingnuts had a 2-o lead.
In the fourth the Laredo Lemurs rallied to tie it. Abel Nieves drew a walk to get the inning started. Kevin Taylor singled to move Nieves to third, and a wild pitch brought the runner home. A ground out moved Taylor to third and he came around to score on a single by Travis Denker. That made the score 2-2.
In the sixth the Laredo Lemurs grabbed the lead and looked like they had booked their ticket to the championship series. Denis Phipps walked to get it started and moved to third on a double by Denker. Alex Boshers relieved Van Skike, and retired the first two hitters on foul outs. Boshers got a quick strike on Juan Silverio, but the Laredo third baseman beat out a ground out to third for a single. That scored Phipps and it was 3-2 Lemurs.
A lot of teams would feel the pressure of knowing their season was about to come to an end, but these are the defending American Association Champion Wichita Wingnuts. They never panic. What they do is respond, and that is what they did in the bottom half of the sixth.
Luis De La Cruz relieved for Pollorena and got into trouble right away. Taylor Oldham led off the inning with a single and two batters later LaRoche walked to put two on with one out. A walk to Mittelstaedt loaded the bases, and Nester followed that with a single that scored both Oldham and LaRoche to give Wichita back the lead. A fielder’s choice by Harrison Kain brought home Mittelstaedt, and the Wichita Wingnuts had a two-run lead once again.
From there the Wingnuts bullpen came up huge. Boshers went 3 innings, allowing a hit and 2 walks to earn the win. In the ninth Paul Smyth closed it out for his second save of the post-season.
Nester finished 2-4 with 3 RBI. Oldham was 2-4 with a run scored and LaRoche scored two runs, as did Mittelstaedt.
Three players had two hits for the Laredo Lemurs. Ty Morrison was 2-4, Denker was 2-3 with an RBI, and Phil Pohl was 2-4.
Game 5 will be tomorrow night in Wichita. The game will be a rematch of the Game 1 starters as Henry Garcia will go against Scott Richmond. The winner will face the Sioux City Explorers in the championship series.
Boxscore Provided by the American Association
By Robert Pannier