Lesson 3: Wichita Wingnuts Win Pitchers’ Duel With Walk-Off Hit
Many may wonder why Wingnuts U is the perfect place to learn how to play amazing baseball, and one of the primary reasons was on display tonight. The Wichita Wingnuts just don’t teach intelligent, fundamental baseball; they build on previous lessons that enhance the student’s knowledge and understanding of the game. Tuesday night was a prime example of this.
In the Wichita Wingnuts last lesson, they demonstrated how to rebound after losing their starting pitcher to injury early in the game, yet still win in 10 innings. Tuesday night they demonstrated how to win in 10 innings again, this time after battling through an amazing pitching duel, and using the walk-off hit as the means to end the game. It was a lesson the Winnipeg Goldeyes were the unfortunate recipients of.
This was a matchup that saw last season’s American Association Pitcher of the Year, Nick Hernandez square off against Charlie Lowell, who is trying to comeback after sitting out the entire 2013 with an injury. Hernandez had struggled in his first start, and was looking to rebound against the Wingnuts. That is just what he did.
The lefty lasted 6.1 innings, allowing just 7 hits and no walks before leaving the game. Hernandez looked incredibly sharp, throwing 61 of his 85 pitches for strikes. After giving up a single to lead off the bottom of the first, the Winnipeg starter retired 10 of the next 12 hitters. David Espinosa had a lead-off single in the second, and Jayce Ray had a lead-off single in the third, but both runners were thrown out trying to steal bases.
Lowell was equally as formidable. The Wichita left-hander allowed 6 hits over 6 innings of work, while striking out 5. He threw 55 of his 84 pitches for strikes. He, too, was the benefit of some fine catching as John Nester also threw out a runner trying to steal a base.
The bullpens were the ones who were going to decide the game, and while the Winnipeg Goldeyes bullpen looked good, the Wichita Wingnuts one was better. The home team got four scoreless innings of their bullpen, as each of the four relievers had one inning of work.
Winnipeg relied mostly on Brendan Lafferty, as the reliever pitched from the eighth inning until one out in the 10th. The left-hander had pitched quite well, but it all came tumbling down in the home half of the 10th inning. With one out, Nester doubled. That would end the day for Lafferty, who had allowed just one other runner to reach base in his previous two innings of work.
Benji Waite took over for the Goldeyes. He got a ground out that moved Nester to third. Jayce Ray was walked, which brought up super-sub Taylor Oldham. Oldham drew a walk as well to load the bases with two outs. It was one of those classic scenarios that every kid dreams of. Luis Hernandez worked the count full, then singled up the middle to score Nester and give Wichita the 1-0 win.
Al Yevoli (1-0) earned the victory for Wichita. Lafferty took the loss (0-1).
The 1-0 walk-off win was another classic teaching moment from the team. Tomorrow we will see what great lesson they have in store for us.
Boxscore Provided by the American Association
By Robert Pannier