It wasn’t a 73-win season, but the Wichita Wingnuts looked incredibly impressive in the manner in which they won this year, and Monday was a prime example as the club downed the Grand Prairie AirHogs 4-2 to finish 59-41. The win saw Eddie Medina rebound from two tough outings, and Nick Van Stratten remained hot, moving his hitting streak to seven-games (16-28) in the win.
This was a pitchers’ duel through the first six innings, as each club was able to muster just one run. Wichita got the scoring started in the second inning against AirHogs starter Bennett Whitmore when Brent Dean reached on an error by the shortstop. That allowed Harrison Kain, who had singled with two outs, to score and make it 1-0 Wingnuts.
Grand Prairie came back to tie the score in the top of the fourth. Victor Diaz led off the inning with a single and scored on a double by Michael Pair. Pair was 2-4 in the game with a run driven in.
That was how the game would remain until the seventh when both teams would get back on the board. Alex Boshers relieved for Medina to start the inning, and gave up a double to Miguel Castano right off. A sacrifice moved the runner to third, and Castano scored on an infield single by Justin Byrd. That made it 2-1 Grand Prairie.
The lead did not last long however. In the bottom of the seventh Dean got it started with an infield single of his own, and he moved to second when Leo Vargas singled. The center fielder misplayed the ball, however, allowing it to skip over his glove, and Dean raced all the way around to score. Vargas wound up at third. A sacrifice fly by Taylor Smart scored Vargas, and Van Stratten followed with third home run since joining Wichita to make it 4-2.
The Wingnuts then got a perfect eighth inning from reliever Daniel Bennett, where he struck out two of the three hitters he faced. Paul Smyth relieved in the ninth, and struck out the side for his seventh save in eight chances. Boshers (4-2) earned the win.
Medina looked very impressive in his 6 innings of work. He allowed 7 hits, 2 walks and 1 earned run. He also struck out 1.
Van Stratten finished 2-3 with a run, an RBI and a walk. He hit .420 in his 17 games since joining the Wichita Wingnuts. Kain was 3-4 with a run scored and Dean was 2-4 with a run scored.
The Wingnuts will now face the Laredo Lemurs in the first round of the playoffs for the second season in a row. Last season Wichita took that series 3-1 before defeating Lincoln for the American Association playoffs. Games 1 and 2 will be in Laredo starting Wednesday night. Scott Richmond is expected to start Game 1 with Jon Link going in Game 2.
By Robert Pannier