For three and half innings on Tuesday night it looked like the visiting Wichita Wingnuts were about the put the screws to the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. The home team had other ideas however, tying the game late and winning on a walk-off hit that gave them the 5-4 win.
Tyler Herron started for Fargo, and he struggled early on. In the top of the second the right-hander allowed a run when Alberto Gonzalez singled to begin the second, and scored two batters later on a double by Brent Dean. Dean had two hits on the night, moving his average to .333.
In the top of the third, Wichita would extend that lead to three. David Espinosa led off with a single and moved to third on walks to John Nester and TJ Mittelstaedt. Gonzalez drew a walk on four pitches, scoring Espinosa, and Dustin Geiger added a sacrifice fly that scored Nester.
In the fourth, Wichita would get one more run off of Herron. Jayce Ray singled with one out and moved to third on a base hit by Espinosa. Nester followed with a single to score Ray and it was 4-0. That would be it for the RedHawks starter. Mike Mason came into pitch and the game changed drastically from that point on.
Omar Bencomo had cruised through the first three innings, but the fourth was not good to him. Stefan Gartrell doubled to lead off the inning, and two batters later Michael Antonio doubled to score Gartrell. Joe Staley walked, and a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position. After Charlie Valerio struck out, Zach Penprase doubled, bring home both runners, and pulling Fargo-Moorhead within one.
The score would remain 4-3 until the bottom of the seventh with the RedHawks would tie it. Al Yevoli relieved for the Wichita Wingnuts and, after getting the first out, gave up a single to Penprase, who promptly stole second, advanced to third on an error, and scored on a sacrifice fly.
The game remained tied heading into the bottom of the ninth. Brad Mincey had retired the last out of the eighth, and remained in the game in the ninth for manager Kevin Hooper. With one out Valerio and Penprase had back-to-back singles to put runners at first and second. A fielder’s choice put runners at the corners for Frank Salerno. Mincey looked to challenge Salerno right away to get ahead, but the RedHawks second baseman won the battle, grounding a single to score Valerio and give Fargo-Moorhead the win.
Mincey (0-21) took the loss for the Wichita Wingnuts. He has pitched well this season, but a couple of bad breaks have hurt him in his last two outings.
The story of the game was Mason (1-0). He kept the Wingnuts bats in check, pitching 5.1 innings, allowing 2 hits and 4 walks, while striking out 5. Most importantly he did not allow a run.
The loss drops the Wichita Wingnuts into a first place tie with the surprising Joplin Blasters, with both teams at 7-3. Fargo-Moorhead moves to 4-8, 7 games behind the first place St. Paul Saints.
By Robert Pannier