With the Kansas City T-Bones losing on Friday night, the Wichita Wingnuts had a chance to pull within a game for second place in the South Division and made sure that there was no doubt they were going to do so, as they downed the Texas AirHogs, 12-3. Jordan Cooper shutout Texas through the first seven innings and Abel Nieves and Zach Nehrir drove in three runs apiece.
The Wichita Wingnuts would get on the board right away. In the bottom of the first, Logan Watkins led off with a drive into the right field corner that he turned into a double. A sacrifice moved him to third and he scored when Abel Nieves grounded a single up the middle to make it 1-0.
In the third, the Wingnuts extended their lead. Miguel Rosario struck out the first batter of the inning, but Watkins followed with a single before Zach Nehrir singled to put two on. Nieves then drilled a ball deep to center that hit off the top of the wall. Both runners had to hold to see if it would be caught. Watkins scored with Nehrir taking third. That brought Tony Thomas to the plate, who hit a ball down the line that also l0oked like it had a chance of being caught. It dropped in for a double, but the runners could only move up a single base, as Nehrir scored to make it 3-0. The inning had a chance to get much worse for Rosario, but he struck out John Nester and Ryne Willard to end the frame.
In the fourth, Logan Trowbridge led off with a ball down the line in right that just dropped in. Trowbridge came out of the box flying, sliding into third with a triple. He would score on a sacrifice fly by Leo Vargas to make it 4-0.
In the sixth, a misplay helped the Wingnuts add to their lead. With one down, Trowbridge walked. Hunter Clanin followed with a ball into the corner in right. Clanin ran hard looking for two. He would be safe, but the throw was wild, allowing Trowbridge to score and Clanin to reach third. Vargas followed with a hard chopper up the middle for a base hit and the game was suddenly 6-0.
Jordan Cooper had found himself in a couple of jams during the contest, but was brilliant all game long at keeping the AirHogs off balance. In the third, he gave up a walk and a single to start the inning, but induced a double-play to end the threat. An inning later, Texas had first and third with no one out, but Cooper got two shallow flyouts and a ground out to keep the AirHogs off the board.
He had been a magician all night, but the magic came to an end in the eighth. A double by Chen Chen started the inning and Li Ning walked to put two on. Yang Jin followed with a sharp single to right. Cooper cut off the throw to the plate, looking to pick Yang off first, but the Wingnuts first baseman could not handle the throw, and everyone moved up on the error. That allowed Chen to score. A shallow fly ball held both runners, but Casio Grider followed with a sharp single into right that scored Li and that would be it for Cooper.
Jordan Cooper (5-4) went 7.1-innings. He allowed 8-hits, 2-walks, and 2-earned runs. Cooper struck out 2.
Brady Bowen came on and got Dillon Thomas to ground out, bringing home Yang with the third run of the inning, but the AirHogs would get no closer.
Leading 6-3, Wichita responded with a six in the bottom half of the frame. With one down, Trowbridge hit his second triple of the game, this time to the wall in right-center. Clanin followed with a hard single into left that scored Trowbridge and Vargas reached on an infield single to put two on. A base hit by Watkins loaded the bases for Nehrir. He hit a lined drive to right that was just out of the reach of a diving Stewart Ijames. The ball rolled to the wall as all three runners came around to score, with Nehrir reaching third. A sacrifice fly brought him home before Tony Thomas walked. John Nester then ripped a ball to the wall in left-center. Thomas came flying all the way around from first to score to make it 12-3.
Brady Bowen returned to the hill in the ninth. He retired all three batters for his first save of the season.
Everyone in the Wichita Wingnuts lineup had at least one hit in the ballgame. Logan Watkins was 3-4 with 3-runs scored. Zach Nehrir was 2-4 with 2-runs and 3-RBI and Abel Nieves was 2-3 with 3-RBI. Leo Vargas was 2-3 with a run and 2-RBI. Casio Grider had 3-hits for Texas.
The Wingnuts and AirHogs continue their series on Saturday night, with right-hander Charlie Gillies (4-1, 2.62) starting for the Wingnuts opposite fellow righty Meng Weiqiang (4-4, 3.63) First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM.
Featured Image by Ed Bailey
By Robert Pannier