The Wichita Wingnuts entered Saturday night’s contest looking to sweep the Gary Southshore RailCats and advance to the American Association championship series for the second year in a row. After taking the first two games in Gary, Wichita sent Eddie Medina to the hill, and he was brilliant early on, keeping the RailCats off the board through the first four frames. That allowed his team to stake him to an 8-0 lead, thanks to a six-run third, and the Wingnuts advanced with the 11-3 victory. Richard Prigatano was the big offensive hero, recording 3-hits and 4-RBI.
After the RailCats kept the Wingnuts off the board in the first two innings, Wichita exploded for six in the third. Christian Stringer led off with a shallow fly ball into center. Chase Harris came in but lost the ball in the lights and the ball dropped in. Stringer ran hard out of the box, legging it into a double. Martin Medina grounded a single into right that brought the runner home and it was 1-0. Brent Clevlen then popped a ball into shallow left that hit off the shortstop’s glove for an error. T.J. Mittelstaedt followed with a single that scored Medina to make it a two-run lead. With runners at first and third, Matt Chavez grounded out, scoring Clevlen and sending Mittelstaedt to second. Richard Prigatano then drilled a ball to right-center that rolled to the wall. He legged it out for a triple as Mittelstaedt scored. Brennen Salgado followed with a base hit, scoring Prigatano to make the lead five. Following a wild pitch, Salgado came home on a two-out single by Leo Vargas to make it 6-0.
In the fourth, the Wingnuts extended their lead to eight. Medina led off the inning with a base hit up the middle. After Clevlen flew out, the RailCats brought on Carlos Pinales. He retired Mittelstaedt, but Chavez kept the inning alive with a hit to right-center that bounced over the wall for a ground rule double. Prigatano followed by lining a ball down the first base line that he legged into his second triple of the game. Both runners scored and it was 8-0.
The Gary Southshore RailCats responded with two-runs in the top of the fifth. Ryan Fitzgerald drew a walk to start the inning, the first that Eddie Medina had given up. Andy DeJesus followed with a double down the left field line to put runners at second and third with no one out. Gary had their chance to get into the game, but Medina settled down, giving up a sacrifice fly to Chase Harris and a ground out to Alex Crosby that brought home the two runners. That made it 8-2.
The RailCats cut the deficit to five in the top of the sixth. Kris Goodman reached on an error and moved to second on a wild pitch. A ground out moved him to third and he scored on a base hit by Wilfredo Gimenez. That made it 8-3.
The Wichita Wingnuts responded with three runs in the bottom of the inning to put this game away. Medina started the inning with a base hit and moved to third on a base hit by Clevlen. Mittelstaedt was walked to load the bases, and Chavez followed by grounding into a fielder’s choice. Medina was gunned down at home, with Chavez barely being safe at first. With the bases loaded, Prigatano was hit in the back scoring Clevlen, and Salgado followed with a base hit into right-center that scored two to make it 11-3.
Eddie Medina (1-0) came out after 6-innings. He allowed 6-hits, a walk, and 2-earned runs. The right-hander struck out 2. Josh Goosen-Brown came on in the seventh and retired the side in order, striking out 2. He would toss two-innings, allowing no hits or walks. Seth Harvey pitched a perfect ninth to finish off the game.
Richard Prigatano led the Wichita Wingnuts offense, going 3-4 with a run, 2-triples, and 4-RBI. Brennen Salgado was 3-5 with a run and 3-RBI. Martin Medina was 3-5 with 2-runs and an RBI.
The American Association championship series will begin Wednesday. The team that Wichita will face is yet to be determined.
By Robert Pannier