The Wichita Wingnuts have found Nebraska to be a house of horrors so far this season, dropping the first two games of their series against the Lincoln Saltdogs, both in walk-off fashion. However, Wednesday night it was the Wingnuts chance to rally late, scoring five runs in the eighth inning to help power the team to a 5-2 victory. Tony Thomas helped lead the way with his American Association leading 16th homer of the season and Jordan Cooper tossed seven outstanding innings for the victory.
This was a relatively quiet contest for much of the game. Neither team scored in the first, but Lincoln would grab a run in the bottom of the second. Brandon Jacobs was hit by a pitch before Dan Johnson followed with a single. Two batters later, Angel Reyes singled into left field. That brought Jacobs home and the Saltdogs had an early 1-0 lead.
Michael Tamburino made that hold, allowing five hits and no runs through the first seven innings of the game. He struck out seven.
Jordan Cooper was pitching nearly as well for Wichita, allowing five hits through the first seven innings. However, it looked like he was going to be the hardluck loser as his team had no answer for the Lincoln right-hander.
In the eighth, that suddenly changed. The Saltdogs brought in Shairon Martis, and the Wichita Wingnuts rallied right away. Back-to-back walks to Logan Watkins and Zach Nehrir got the inning started. Abel Nieves followed with a base hit into right field. Watkins came around to score and Nehrir would also come home when the ball was misplayed by the right fielder. That put Wichita on top by a run.
Derek Gordon came on for Martis and Tony Thomas greeted him by sending the first pitch that the right-hander threw over the left field wall for his 16th home run of the season. That gave Wichita a 4-1 lead. John Nester was then hit by a pitch before Logan Trowbridge reached on an error. A sacrifice moved both runners 90 feet and Nester scored on a Nick Rotota base hit to extend the lead the four.
Jordan Cooper (6-4) came out after seven innings. Austin Boyle relieved and was greeted by a Christian Ibarra home run, his 10th of the season. However, Lincoln would get no closer. Boyle would give up a single and a walk before inducing a double play to end the inning. In the ninth, Daniel Tillman would come on and retire the side, striking out two for his 14th save of the season.
Tony Thomas finished 2-5 with a run and 2-RBI. John Nester and Nick Rotola also had 2-hits apiece.
The Wichita Wingnuts return home to begin a four-game series against the Cleburne Railroaders. Right-hander Charlie Gillies (5-1, 3.58) will open the series on Thursday. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.
By Robert Pannier