Since joining the Wichita Wingnuts, Leo Vargas is not a name that is mentioned very often. Through his first 27 games with the club, the Wingnuts infielder was hitting just .197 and had 3 RBI. It was a fairly inauspicious start to say the least.
Manager Kevin Hooper has held the greatest of confidence in his veteran however, always knowing that Vargas could help this team in so many other ways, while still coming up with big hits from time-to-time. Tuesday night was just one of those evenings, as the Wichita shortstop came up with a clutch base hit that scored the winning run in the eighth to move the team to 5-2 on their current road trip.
This was a game that the Wichita Wingnuts never trailed in. In fact, the game was only tied for one-half inning, before Vargas’ eighth inning single. In the top of the first the Wingnuts grabbed a 1-0 lead. David Espinosa singled with one out against Ottawa Champions starter Wilmer Font. Espinosa moved to second on a passed ball and scored on a single by Matt Padgett.
In the third inning the Wingnuts extended their lead. Jayce Ray walked to begin the inning and came around to score on a triple by Espinosa. With John Nester at the plate Espinosa scored on a wild pitch. T.J. Mittelstaedt drew a two-out walk to keep the inning alive. He moved to second on a single by Joash Brodin and came home to score when Brent Dean singled up the middle. That made it 4-0.
Alex Boshers got the emergency start for Wichita and looked really good. He kept the Champions off the scoreboard for the first two innings, but the home team finally got a run in the bottom of the third. Albert Cartwright’s one out walk got the rally going. He moved to third on a single by Roberto Ramirez and scored on a fielder’s choice by Sebastien Boucher. That made it 4-1.
In the fifth Ottawa pulled to within one. Chris Winder got another Ottawa rally going with a walk, this time to lead off the inning. Daniel Bick was hit by a Boshers’ pitch and Cartwright laid down a perfect sacrifice that moved both runners into scoring position. Next up was Ramirez, who lined a double to the wall that scored both runners to make it 4-3.
In the seventh the home team would tie the score. With Scott Kuzminsky on the mound, Bick singled to begin the inning and stole second to put the tying runner at second with no one out. Ramirez grounded out to move Bick to third and the Wingnuts turned to Iden Nazario. His second pitch to Boucher was in the dirt and rolled away for a wild pitch that scored Bick to tie the score.
It was an amazing rally by the Ottawa Champions that saw them come from a 4-0 deficit to tie the game. The euphoria would not last long however.
The very next inning the Wichita Wingnuts would retake the lead. Brodin singled to start the inning, and moved to second on a sacrifice by Dean. A balk moved Brodin to third while Vargas was at the plate. This was the shortstop’s big opportunity to come through with a clutch hit and he surely delivered. On an 0-2 pitch, Vargas grounded a single to center field to plate Brodin with the winning run.
In the ninth Daniel Bennett came into the game to close it out. He retired the Champions in order, striking out the final two hitters of the game for his first save of the season. Nazario (1-0) earned the victory.
Espinosa had another huge day for the Wingnuts, going 3-4 with 2 runs and an RBI. He also drew a walk. Brodin was 2-5 and scored the winning run. Ramirez was 3-4 with 2 RBI in a losing effort.
By Robert Pannier