The Wichita Wingnuts entered Saturday night’s contest with a lot of hope after seeing that the Kansas City T-Bones had already dropped their contest earlier in the day. This left Wichita’s slim hopes of still making the playoffs alive, and they took full advantage of it, downing the Sioux City Explorers 4-2 thanks to 6.2 outstanding innings by Jordan Cooper and some timely hitting by Leo Vargas.
After Jordan Cooper kept Sioux City off the board in the top the first, his offense would give him the lead. With one down, Zach Nehrir blasted his seventh home run of the season deep over the wall in left field to give Wichita a 1-0 lead.
The Wingnuts would extend their lead to three in the bottom of the second. Chase Simpson singled off the wall in left field and moved to second after John Nester walked. Two batters later, Leo Vargas doubled into the gap in right-center, scoring both runners to give the Wingnuts a 3-0 lead.
Cooper had dominated the Explorers through the first three innings, allowing a hit in the second and third innings. In the fourth, Dean Green would finally get Sioux City on the board. With two down, he blasted his third home run of the season to pull the Explorers within two.
The Wichita Wingnuts responded right away in the bottom half of the inning. Tony Thomas walked before Simpson reached on a single that moved Thomas to third. A sacrifice fly by Nick Rotola brought Thomas home to extend the lead back to three.
Sioux City would add one more run of the top of the sixth. A one-out single by José Sermo got the inning going. Green then drew a walk putting runners at first and second with one down. A wild pitch allowed both runners to move up. John Nester was able to retrieve the ball and threw to second hoping to get Green, but his throw was wild, allowing Sermo to come home to make it 4-2. With a runner at second and one down, Green ran on the pitch but Jay Baum popped the ball up. Logan Watkins made the catch and easily doubled off Green at second to end the inning.
Jordan Cooper (11-6) returned in the seventh and would get two down before finally being taken out of the game. The right-hander tossed 6.2 innings, allowing 7-hits, 2-walks, and an earned run. He struck out 2.
Austin Boyle came on and closed out the seventh and would toss a scoreless eighth as well. Daniel Tillman came on in the ninth, retiring the side in order for his American Association leading 27th save.
Leo Vargas finished the evening 2-3 with 2-RBI. Chase Simpson was 3-4 with a run scored. Dean Green was 2-3 with a run and an RBI.
The Wichita Wingnuts look to keep their playoff hopes alive on Sunday afternoon. RHP Luis Mateo (10-5, 4.46) will start for Sioux City. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05.
By Robert Pannier