With Jon Link and Jason Van Skike hurting, manager Kevin Hooper has had to lean on others in his rotation to deliver big innings for him. On Sunday, Scott Richmond, proved to be golden, throwing seven outstanding innings as the Wichita Wingnuts won 5-3 over the Ottawa Champions to move to 4-1 on their road trip out east.
This was vintage Wingnuts University material on Sunday. Last season saw guys come up big when the club needed them most, including a spot start from pitching coach Luke Robertson. Whenever the team needs someone to take their game to a new level, there is always a guy ready to do so. With two of the club’s aces out, Richmond was asked to deliver a big start and he gave his team a beauty to say the least.
Richmond was opposed by Dan Meyer. Meyer allowed a first inning walk, but eliminated the runner trying to steal. Richmond retired the Champions in order in the first, but in the second they got a run against the right-hander. Mike Schwartz and Bryce Massanari led off with back-to-back singles and two batters later Chris Winder singled to load the bases. A sacrifice fly by Daniel Bick scored Schwartz and it was 1-0.
That lead would last through the third, but in the fourth the Wichita Wingnuts jumped out in front. David Espinosa led off the inning with a single, and T.J. Mittelstaedt walked to put two on with no one out. Two hitters later Matt Padgett tied the score with a base hit that brought Espinosa home. Tyler Heil’s double scored Mittelstaedt to give the visitors their first lead of the game. Jerry Gonzalez followed with a walk to load the bases, and Leo Vargas reached on an error that plated both Padgett and Heil. It was 4-1 Wichita, and that was plenty enough for Richmond on this day.
The Wingnuts starter scattered five hits in the five innings following the run. He relied heavily on his defense to come up with big plays and they did just that for him, recording a double-play, while catcher John Nester threw out a runner as well. In the seventh he gave up a lead-off double, but got a grounder right back to him that froze the runner for the first out, then he struck out the final two hitters he faced to end the inning. Overall Richmond (3-1) went 7 innings, allowing 8 hits, a walk, and 1 earned run while striking out 3.
In the top of the seventh inning the Wingnuts extended their lead. Jayce Ray singled with two outs and, after stealing second, scored when Espinosa lined a base hit into left field. For Espinosa, he was 3-4 on the day with a run scored and an RBI. He also drew a walk.
Wichita was up comfortably 5-1, but manager Hal Lanier’s team knows no quit in them. With Richmond out of the game, the team mounted a rally. Frankie Reed walked the first two hitters of the inning and was replaced by Iden Nazario. He walked Mike Schwartz and Bryce Massanari to drive home a run. A sacrifice fly by Jon Talley scored another run, and it was quickly 5-3. That brought a call for Daniel Bennett who induced a double-play to end the inning.
In the ninth Hooper turned to his closer to finish things off. Dakota Watts retired the side in order for his 12th save of the season, and 11th since becoming a Wingnuts player.
By Robert Pannier