Tim Brown winning games for the Wichita Wingnuts is about as dependable as the geyser Old Faithful blowing her stack. It happens so regularly that the right-hander only winning once in his last four starts seems like some event of near apocalyptic proportions. However, order was restored to the world Thursday night as Brown dominated the Sioux City Explorers over seven-innings to win his third game of the season.
Brown was up against Bryan Escanio, and both starters looked quite sharp through the first two frames. It was a scoreless tie entering the third when one of the offensive heroes for the Wichita, T.J. Mittelstaedt, gave his team the lead. Zack Cox walked with one out and moved to second on a base hit by Brent Clevlen. That brought Mittelstaedt to the plate who drilled a ball to the wall in right field. Both runners came around to score and Mittelstaedt raced into third with his second triple of the season. Two batters later, the other offensive star, Richard Prigatano, doubled to left field to score Mittelstaedt and Brown had a three-run lead to work with.
The right-hander made that lead hold up. He retired the first eight Explorers batters of the game, relying on his defense to make plays for him. With two outs in the third, Sioux City was finally able to break the string when Ralph Henriquez singled with two outs. Brown then got the final batter of the inning out to set up a run of five straight batters that he would retire. That run ended with a one out single by Jarek Cunningham in the fifth, but he was caught trying to steal to erase any threat in the that frame.
In the top of the sixth the Explorers finally got something going. Brown recorded the first two outs of the inning, but Matty Johnson beat out a ground ball to short for a single to keep the inning alive. Michael Lang followed with a double to move Johnson to third, and Noah Perio made it a one-run game when he singled to right to score both runners.
The Wingnuts responded in the home half of the inning. Escanio retired the first hitter of the inning, but Prigatano turned on a 1-0 pitch from the Explorers starter and ripped it for his third homerun of the season. That put the lead back at two. Prigatano fell a single short of hitting for the cycle. He was 3-4 with a run and 2-RBI.
In the seventh the Wingnuts added two more runs and chased Escanio from the game. Back-to-back singles by Tyler Urps and Christian Stringer got the inning started. A fielder’s choice put runners at the corners and Dylan Rheault came in to relieve. He could not stop the bleeding however.
Brent Clevlen singled to right to score Urps and move Cox to second. Mittelstaedt then drove in his third run of the game to make the score 6-2 and that is how it would end. Mittelstaedt finished 2-3 with a run and 3-RBI. He also walked.
Professor Brown (3-2) looked back to his usual self, allowing just 5-hits and no walks in 7-innings of work. He struck out 2.
Clevlen also had three-hits in the contest. He added a run scored and an RBI. Perio had two-hits and 2-RBI for the Explorers.
These two teams continue their four-game series tomorrow night. Game time is 7:05.
By Robert Pannier