Matt Chavez Powers Wichita Wingnuts to 6-3 Opening Day Victory
After opening day was rained out, the Salina Stockade finally made their debut and actually had the lead early on, but Matt Chavez showed why he was the American Association batting champion last season, going 2-2 with a homer and 2-RBI, and Alex Boshers picked up where he left off last year, earning his first win of the year.
After a scoreless first inning, Salina took the lead in the top of the second. Jesse Baker drew a walk to start the inning, but was erased on the base paths on a force out by Jimmy Heck. Jordan Caillouet followed with a single that moved Heck to third, and he scored on a sacrifice fly by CJ Epperson. For the first time in their American Association existence, the Stockade were leading.
Sam Agnew-Wieland had looked great through the first two frames, but he got into trouble in the third. Leo Vargas started the inning by drawing a walk and Harrison Kain singled to put runners at the corners with no one out. Christian Stringer then grounded into a fielder’s choice that scored Vargas and the game was tied. Brent Clevlen singled to put two on and T.J. Mittelstaedt grounded out to score Stringer to make it 2-1. Next up was Chavez, who drilled a two-run homer to make it 4-1.
The Stockade responded with a run in the top half of the fourth. With one down, Baker drilled a shot over the left field wall for his first homer of the year. That brought Salina within two, but they would get no closer.
In the bottom half of the fourth, the Wingnuts did a little responding of their own. Martin Medina and Richard Prigatano had back-to-back singles to start the inning. After a double steal moved both runners into scoring position, Kain grounded a single into left that scored both runners to make it 6-2.
Alex Boshers (1-0) pitched six solid innings, allowing just 2-hits and 2-runs, with 2-walks and 5-strikeouts. Jesse Pratt came on a pitched a perfect seventh, the Austin Boyle yielded a run in the eighth to cut the deficit to three.
With one down, Steven Taft walked and moved to second on a ground out. He reached third on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Roche Woodard to make it 6-3. However, Salina would get no closer. In the ninth, Seth Harvey came on and retired the Stockade in order for his first save.
Matt Chavez finished 2-2 with a run, 2-RBI and 2-walks. Harrison Kain was 2-3 with 2-RBI for Wichita. Despite taking the loss, the Salina Stockade bullpen looked exceptional. Connor Bach pitched 3.1 shutout innings and Skylar Hunter pitched a scoreless eighth inning.
Tomorrow night, these two teams will play a double-header as part of a makeup for Thursday’s rain delay. In Game 1, Ryan Kussmaul will go for Wichita. LHP Charlie Leesman will start Game 2. Salina has not named their starters.
By Robert Pannier