Professor Chris McClendon Lectures on the Art of the Perfect Night: Wingnuts Wire
In a game that looked a lot more like a football score than a baseball one, 3B Chris McClendon led his Wichita Wingnuts to a 20-12 victory over the Lincoln SaltDogs. The win gave Wichita a three-game sweep, and locked in a playoff berth for the South Division leading team. Meanwhile, the loss dropped Lincoln out of first, a half-game behind the Gary Southshore RailCats.
The victory came on a night when starter Anthony Capra struggled with his command, walking eight and giving up seven runs in 4.2 innings of work. Capra showed flashes of brilliance, striking out six in the first three innings and eight overall, but he also got himself into trouble with the base on balls. This is what knocked him of the game in the fifth.
With one out and the Wingnuts leading 7-2 Ian Gac and Brain Joynt had back-to-back doubles to make it 7-3. Capra then struck out Mike Gilmartin for the second out of the inning, but then he walked the next three batters, driving home a run and his night was over.
Jared Gaynor relieved and did more to keep the rally going than to end it. He walked Matt Forgatch, and then gave up back-to-back singles to Luis Nunez and Gaston that gave Lincoln an 8-7 lead. Gac worked the count to 2-2 and fouled off two pitches to stay alive before blasting a three-run home run to give the Saltdogs an 11-7 lead. Lincoln got nine runs off of just five hits, and showed they had some comeback in them too.
However, this is Wingnuts U. At the University of Wingnuts Baseball they have continually taught a lesson that all teams seem to forget when playing Kansas’ best team – Wichita responds when scored upon. The lesson would be driven home, and it would be Professor Chris McClendon that would begin the instruction.
McClendon led off with a single and Brent Dean would reach on a fielder’s choice, putting runners on first and second with no one out. Jared McDonald singled and the bases were now loaded. Ryan Khoury’s sacfly drive home McClendon before Jake Luce struck out. At 11-8 and two outs, it looked like Lincoln starter Nick Green may escape any further trouble, but that is how the Wingnuts play – give you hope and then crush it. David Espinosa tripled to the wall to score both Dean and McDonald, and then Wingnuts University Dean Brent Clevlen homered to take back the lead for Wichita. An 11-7 deficit was now a 12-11 lead.
The Wingnuts were not done pouring it on however. They would score four more in the sixth when McClendon led off the inning with a walk and moved to second on a single by Dean. One out later Ryan Khoury would hit his 12th home run of the year to make it 15-11. Espinosa would then single home Luce for the 16th Wingnuts run of the game.
In the eighth Gaston led off the inning with his 12th long ball of the year to cut the lead to 16-12, meaning it was time for another Wingnuts response. The SaltDogs brought in closer Marshall Schuler to try to end the rallies, but it did not work. Espinosa walked with one out and advanced on a wild pitch. After Clevlen grounded out, newcomer Abel Nieves lined a single to score Espinosa. Carlo Testa followed with a single and McClendon walked again to load the bases. That brought up Dean who promptly drove an 0-1 pitch to the wall to clear the bases and give Wichita a 20-12 lead.
It was an amazing night for Wichita hitters. Every batter had at least one hit and one run scored, and only one hitter did not drive in a run. McClendon was the star of the game. His big two-run double in the second gave the Wingnuts the early lead, and when Wichita scored 4 in the fourth and sixth innings, and five in the fifth, he led off each of those innings and got the rallies started by getting on base each time. Even in the eighth inning he walked to load the bases ahead of Dean’s three-run double. For the game the third baseman finished 4-4 with four runs scored, two RBI and two walks.
Dean Clevlen also had a great day of instruction at the plate going 4-5 with two runs and two RBI. The Dean of Wingnuts U. is slowly inching his way into a possible triple crown. He is second in batting (.378 to .367), fourth in home runs (24-17) and second in RBI (80-72). It may be impossible for him to reach the home run lead, but he has a good shot at the other two.
The Wingnuts extended their win streak to six games, and have the league’s best record at 62-26. They scored 41 runs in the three-game sweep and added 50 hits. David Espinosa was 7-12 in the series with four runs scored and six RBI.
The Wingnuts travel to Laredo for a big four-game set. These are two of the hottest teams in the league, and both have a legitimate shot at the championship. While the Wingnuts have all but clinched the South Division, it is likely they will want to send a message to the Lemurs that they are the top dogs and not the Texas team.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Baseball Editor
Member of the IBWAA