Ninth Inning Rally Sends Lincoln Saltdogs to 4-3 Victory Over Wingnuts
No one can say that Lincoln Saltdogs play dead. Trailing 3-2 entering the ninth inning on the road in Wichita, the team scored two runs to down the Wingnuts 4-3. That moved Lincoln to 2-0 early on in the season, and is quickly demonstrating that this team knows how to find ways to win.
This game started out much in the same way as last night’s contest. Anthony Capra started for Wichita and looked quite good, but he got into a little trouble in the first inning, as Lincoln jumped out to the quick 1-o lead. Christian Ibarra got the inning going when he led off with a double, and moved to third when Curt Smith singled two batters later. Luis Alen then followed with a single and the Saltdogs were quickly out on top.
In the fourth, Lincoln would extend their lead. Smith led off the inning and blasted his first homerun of the season to make it a 2-0 Saltdogs lead.
The Wingnuts were not discouraged, however. They responded by scoring a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning. Lincoln starter Matt Larkins retired the first two batters of the inning, but Harrison Kain kept the inning alive with a shot to the wall that he legged out for a triple. Brent Dean then followed with a triple of his own to score Kain and make it a one-run game. The Wingnuts had their opportunity to tie the score, but Larkins got Leo Vargas to pop out to end the threat.
Larkins had pitched brilliantly, but in the sixth Wichita finally was able to take their first lead of the season. Again it was the two-out rally that was Larkin’s nemesis. After retiring the first two batters, Dean singled and moved to second on a wild pitch. A base hit by Vargas moved Dean to third, and brought Randy Ziegler in from the bullpen.
The first pitch that Ziegler threw to Christian Stringer he lined into the outfield for a base hit. Vargas and Dean scored before Stringer was thrown out trying to extend his hit into a double. That made the score 3-2.
Into the ninth the game went with Frankie Reed coming on to try to close it out for Wichita. He retired the first hitter, but then walked Pat McKenna. Pat Kelly followed with a single that moved McKenna to third, and then Ibarra singled to score McKenna to tie the game. It was looking bad and only going to get worse. A walk to Alexi Colon loaded the bases, and Smith then delivered again, grounding into a force play that scored Kelly to give the Saltdogs back the lead.
In the ninth, Evan Reed came on for Lincoln. Dean was the first hitter and reached second on an error meaning the tying run was just 180-feet away. A sacrifice by Vargas moved Dean just one base away from home, but Reed came up huge. He got Stringer to ground back to first on a play that held the runner, before striking out Zach Cox to end the game.
Matt Brazis (1-0) earned the victory with a scoreless eighth inning of relief. Reed Earned his first save. Frankie Reed (0-1) took the loss for Wichita.
Smith finished the day 3-5 with a run and 2-RBI for Lincoln. Five players had at least two-hits for the Wingnuts, including Stringer, Cox, Kain, Dean, and Vargas.
These two teams continue their four-game series tomorrow. Tim Brown will make his 2016 debut for the Wichita Wingnuts. Ryan O’Sullivan goes for Lincoln. Game time is 7:05.
By Robert Pannier