Stefan Gartrell Goes Deep to Sink Wichita Wingnuts 5-4
Talk about a game of peaks and valleys. The Amarillo Thunderheads jumped out to a 3-0 lead, only to watch the Wichita Wingnuts score two runs in successive innings to take the lead. The Thunderheads tied the score and then watched slugger Stefan Gartrell send the crowd home happy, blasting a one out home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the home team the 5-4 win.
Scott Kuzminsky squared off against Anthony Figliolia. Kuzminsky had been hit hard in his last start and was looking to rebound for the Wingnuts. Amarillo would have none of that however.
The Thunderheads jumped out to the 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Logan Vick led off the inning with a triple to the wall. Kuzminsky was totally unfazed however, striking out Corey Bass before getting Jason Martin to ground out. Vick remained at third, and it looked like that is where he would stay, but Juan Martinez delivered a clutch double on a 3-1 offering from Kuzminsky to stake the Thunderheads to the one-run lead.
The Wichita starter settled down, retiring six of the seven batters he faced over the next two innings, but in the fourth he found himself in trouble again. Kuzminsky retired the first two batters of the inning, then gave up back-to-back singles to Rene Leveret and Geraldo Valentin. Taylor Smart then came to the plate and lined a double into the gap that brought Leveret in to increase the lead to 2-0.
In the fifth Amarillo extended their lead. Bass singled with one out and moved to third on a base hit by Martinez. Gartrell followed with a single to score Bass and it was a three-run lead for the home club.
While Kuzminsky was struggling to get command of the game, Figliolia was pitching a gem. He had allowed just two walks and a double through the first five innings, and eliminated one of those runners with a double-play. The Wichita Wingnuts seemed to have no answer for him, that is until the sixth.
In the top of the sixth inning David Espinosa doubled with one out. That brought TJ Mittelstaedt up, and he promptly lined the first pitch he saw from Figliolia for a double to get the Wingnuts on the board. Joash Brodin walked and that was it for Figliolia. Billy Petrick came in and retired the side, but not before giving up a single to Matt Padgett that scored Mittelstaedt. At the end of six innings it was 3-2 in favor of the Amarillo Thunderheads.
In the seventh Kyle Bellows came in to relieve. He retired the first batter, but Leo Vargas reached on an error. Espinosa followed with a walk and both runners moved up on a ground out by Mittelstaedt. Brodin was walked and Padgett followed with a lined single that brought home both Espinosa and Vargas to give the Wichita Wingnuts their first lead of the game.
The lead did not last long however. Daniel Bennett came on for Wichita in the bottom half of the inning, and hit Jason Martin with the second pitch he threw. Martinez followed with a single, but Gartrell hit into a double-play to put a runner at third with two outs. That brought Leveret to the plate who singled to score Martin and the game was tied.
The score remained 4-4 through the eighth setting up the dramatic ninth inning. Randy Hamrick retired the Wingnuts in order in the top half of the inning. In the bottom half, the Wingnuts turned to Alex Boshers, who retired Juan Martinez for the first out. Gartrell was the next hitter, and after taking the first pitch for a ball, he ripped a home run to win the game. It was the sixth home run of the season for the Amarillo left fielder.
Hamrick (1-1) was the winner, while Boshers (1-1) took the loss.
Padgett continues to see his average rise after going 2-3 with 3 RBI. He also drew a walk. For Amarillo, Bass was 3-5 with a run and an RBI, and Martinez also had 3 hits in 5 at-bats. Gartrell finished 2-5 with a run and 2 RBI and Leveret was 2-4 with a run and an RBI.
By Robert Pannier