After splitting the first two games of their series, the Wichita Wingnuts got eight outstanding innings out of left-hander Omar Bencomo to beat the New Jersey Jackals 3-1. That gave the Wingnuts a 2-1 record in the first three games of their Northeast swing, as they now head north into Canada for the next seven games.
Gabriel Perez opposed Bencomo in this contest, and both pitchers kept the opposing team off the scoreboard in the first inning. In the second New Jersey took the lead. Leandro Castro singled with one out and stole second to put himself into scoring position. Jared Schlehuber was the next hitter and he took a 1-0 offering from Bencomo and drilled it into the gap for a double. That scored Castro to make it a one-run New Jersey lead.
The Wingnuts responded right away. Jayce Ray walked with one out in the top of the third. He stole second and a catcher’s overthrow moved him to third. That brought David Espinosa to the plate, who singled to send Ray across the plate, tying the score. The rally was not over however. T.J. Mittelstaedt walked and two batters later Matt Padgett gave the Wingnuts the lead with a single that scored Espinosa.
Leading 2-1, Wichita extended their lead in the top of the fourth. Perez retired the first hitter of the inning, but Luis Hernandez drilled the first pitch he saw for his first home run of the year. That gave the Wichita Wingnuts a two-run lead.
That was plenty of runs for Bencomo (6-1) on this night. The left-hander was absolutely brilliant. Following the run in the second, the Wingnuts starter retired 18 of the next 19 hitters he faced, including the final 13 batters who would face him before he departed. For Bencomo he went 8 innings, allowing just 3 hits and 1 run. He did not walk a hitter and struck out 8. The lefty threw 100 pitches exactly, with 70 being strikes. It was a truly amazing outing.
It was a good thing that Bencomo was pitching so well. Following the run in the fourth the Wingnuts offense was shutdown. Wichita got just two hits and a walk over the final five frames of the game.
In the ninth manager Kevin Hooper turned to his closer. Dakota Watts retired the final three hitters of the game for his 1oth save of the season, and second of the series. The right-hander has been absolutely dominant this season. He has not been scored upon in his last 17 appearances, and has allowed just three earned runs in 24.2 innings this year.
Espinosa had a big day at the plate, going 2-4 with a run and an RBI. Padgett was 2-3 with an RBI and a walk.
Perez and three relievers allowed just 5 hits and 3 earned runs. They struck out 12 Wingnuts hitters.
By Robert Pannier