Fans in Wichita got a little first round playoff preview as the South Division leading Wichita Wingnuts took on the Wild Card leading Kansas City T-Bones in a double-header. The T-Bones won the first matchup in 10 thanks to a 2-run homer by Jordan Edgerton, and Richard Prigatano hit one of three Wingnuts homers in Game 2 to give the home team the split.
In Game 1 of the double-header, the Kansas City T-Bones needed extra innings but they would come away with the 5-2 victory. An error led to the go-ahead run and Jordan Edgerton hit a two-run homer to put the game out of reach.
Jesse Pratt returned to the Wingnuts, and he and Luis Paula both tossed a scoreless first. In the second, Wichita took the lead. With two down, Richard Prigatano drew a walk and moved to second on a stolen base. Next up was Brennen Salgado, who blooped a base hit into right that scored Prigatano to make it 1-0.
The Kansas T-Bones responded in the top half of the third, taking the lead. Chantz Mark doubled to start the inning and scored when Marcus Lemon hit a double just over the head of Tyler Sullivan in center. Mark had to hold not sure if Sullivan would make the catch and so he was only able to reach third, putting two in scoring position. Kevin Keyes followed by grounding to short, but the throw from the shortstop pulled the Wichita first baseman off the bag, allowing the runner to reach and Mack to score. Next up was Cedric Hunter, who singled to score Lemon to give Kansas City the lead, 2-1.
An inning later, the Wichita Wingnuts tied the score. Matt Chavez led off with a base hit. With two down, Salgado drilled a ball to the wall in right-center field. Chavez came all the way around to score as Salgado raced in for a triple to make it 2-2.
The game was scheduled for seven-innings because of the double-header, but would wind up remaining tied until the 10th. Wichita had put outfielder Brennen Salgado to relieve in the ninth and he retired the side without allowing a run. In the 10th he gave up a double to Kyle Petty to start the inning. Dexter Kjerstad followed by grounding down to third, but the throw was wild, allowing Petty to score. Jordan Edgerton followed with his fifth homer of the year to make it 5-2. That would be the final.
The Kansas City T-Bones bullpen was stellar. Grant Sides tossed 2-scoreless innings of relief as did Jeff Walters (2-3) who earned the victory. Jordan Edgerton was 4-5 with a run and 2-RBI for Kansas City. Brennen Salgado was 2-4 with 2-RBI for the Wingnuts.
In the second game, the Wichita Wingnuts bats came alive as the team put up double-digits in hits and runs to down the T-Bones 13-3. Wichita hit 3-homers, including a three-run shot by Richard Prigatano. Wes Phillips hit his first professional home run, and Prigatano, T.J. Mittelstaedt, and Brent Clevlen each drove in 3-RBI.
As in Game 1, the Wichita Wingnuts would strike first, this time in the bottom of the first inning. Christian Stringer started the inning by hitting a ball down the left field line. The shortstop made a great chase but could not control the ball and it dropped in for a double. A fly ball moved him to third and he scored on a sacrifice fly by Brent Clevlen to make it 1-0.
In the second, Wichita extended their lead. Richard Prigatano singled with one down against Jackson Lowery. Lowery struck out his second batter of the inning, bringing Wesley Phillips to the plate. He fell behind 0-2, but fouled off three-pitches to stay alive. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, Phillips drilled the first home run of his professional career over the left field wall to make it 3-0.
In the third, the lead became four. Stringer led off the frame with his second double of the game. He moved to third on a fly ball, and scored when Brent Clevlen drilled a double into left field to make it 4-0.
Danny Guitierrez started for Wichita, making is 2017 debut for the team. He pitched just 2-innings, but struck out 5 and looked absolutely unhittable. Seth Harvey came on in the third and tossed another scoreless frame, but in the fourth, Kansas City would get on the board. Harvey retired the first batter of the inning, but Kevin Keyes would drill his American Association leading 23rd home run of the season to make it 4-1.
In the fifth, the Wingnuts turned to Jordan Cooper. He struck out two of the first three batters he faced, yielding a single in between. Lemon doubled into right to put two in scoring position with two down. Keyes then walked bringing Cedric Hunter to the plate. He hit a sharp grounder to short that bounced off of Leo Vargas’ glove and into center field. The error allowed two-runs to score to make it 4-3. The inning could have been worse, but Jordan Edgerton grounded a ball down to third that Phillips made a great play on to throw him out and preserve the lead.
The Wingnuts responded in the bottom half of the inning, putting five on the board. Stringer walked to start the inning before Martin Medina singled. Clevlen lined a single into center that scored Stringer to make the lead two. With runners at the corners, T.J. Mittelstaedt grounded the the ball up the middle. Paul Hendrix made a great play to bat the ball down and flip to second for the force out. That allowed Medina to score to extend the lead back to three. Matt Chavez then grounded to short, but the ball took a bad hope and bounced off the shortstop’s glove. The play was ruled an error, putting runners at first and third. Next up was Richard Prigatano, who drilled a 1-0 pitch deep over the center field wall for his sixth homer of the year. The 440-plus foot shot made it 9-3.
In the sixth, the Wingnuts put this game away. Vargas singled to get the inning started and moved to second when Stringer was hit by a pitch. Medina grounded into a double-play that put Vargas at third. Clevlen was then hit by a pitch and Mittelstaedt followed with a drive to the wall in center that he legged out for a triple. Both runners scored to make it 11-3. Next up was Matt Chavez, who drilled his 17th homer of the season over the left field wall to make it 13-3.
Christian Stringer finished the day 2-2 with a walk and a hit by pitch for the Wichita Wingnuts. He scored 3-runs. Richard Prigatano was 2-3 with 2-runs scored and 3-RBI. Wes Phillips finished 1-2 with a run and 2-RBI. Brent Clevlen was 2-2 with a hit by pitch, a run and 3-RBI. Marcus Lemon was 2-4 with a run for the T-Bones
Game 3 of this five-game series is Tuesday evening. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.
By Robert Pannier