When Casey Turgeon grounded to third and T.J. Mittelstaedt threw over to first for the out, the Wichita Wingnuts had won their second American Association title. Or did they? Thanks to one of the most inexplicable calls in baseball history, the home plate umpire, Ed Stegner, stopped the celebration, declaring that Wingnuts closer Ryan Kussmaul had committed a balk. The Winnipeg Goldeyes were given a second chance, and tied the score before proceeding to win in the 17 innings, the longest game in American Association history, 4-3.
After a scoreless first inning, the Winnipeg Goldeyes took the lead in the bottom of the second. David Bergin walked to start the inning and moved to second when Wes Darvill laid down a perfect bunt. Eddie Medina retired Mason Katz on a ground out, bringing Andrew Sohn to the plate. He had sat out yesterday’s game battling an injury but returned with a vengeance, blasting the first pitch from Medina for a two-run homer down the left field line to make it 2-0 Goldeyes.
Charle Rosario had allowed just a lone walk through the first two innings, but Wichita responded with two-runs in the top of the third to tie the game. Jacob Morris started the inning with a base hit into left field. He then moved to second when Leo Vargas followed with a base hit of his own. Rosario struck out Christian Stringer, but worked the count full before walking Martin Medina. Brent Clevlen followed by drilling a ball down to third that Darvill made a nice play on for the second out of the inning. T.J. Mittelstaedt worked the count to 2-2 before singling to right to score both Morris and Vargas and the game was tied.
It stayed that way until the sixth, when Wichita would take their first lead of the game. Clevlen started the inning with a base hit into left. Mittelstaedt then went the other way into left field and looked like he had extra bases, but Josh Romanski made a diving catch about 25 feet from the line to save the sure double. Matt Chavez followed by going the other way with a base hit into right that moved Clevlen to third. That brought Richard Prigatano to the plate, who went right back up the middle with a base hit. Clevlen easily scored to give the Wingnuts the 3-2 lead, ending the night for Rosario. Michael Lambson relieved and retired the final two batters, but the damage was done.
Following the two-run second, Eddie Medina was brilliant. He gave up just two lone hits over the next four innings. Medina was done after six. He allowed 4-hits, 3-walks, and 2-runs. The right-hander struck out 5.
Austin Boyle came on in the seventh, and would give up a one out walk to Casey Turgeon. However, he got a ground out before getting Josh Romanski to fly out to end the inning.
Wichita looked to add to their lead in the top of the eighth. Clevlen walked to start the inning and moved to second on a stolen base. With one down, Chavez flew out to right, allowing Clevlen to tag and reach third. With two down, Victor Capellan buckled down, striking out Prigatano to end the inning.
Mike Devine relieved for Wichita in the eighth, and Reggie Abercrombie greeted the reliever with a ground ball to third. Mittelstaedt’s throw was low and Clevlen could not dig it out allowing Abercrombie to reach on an error. Devine then struck out Shawn Pleffner, and David Bergin followed by grounding a ball down to third. Mittelstaedt made a nice grab and then threw to second for the second out. Stringer then fired onto first for the double-play to end the threat.
Ryan Kussmaul relieved in the ninth looking to close out the title. Darvill led off by hitting a ball down the left field line that hit off of Mittelstaedt’s glove and dropped in for a single. Mason Katz followed by laying down a perfect bunt that he almost beat out, but Kussmaul made a great play to get the runner at first with Darvill reaching second. Kussmaul then blew Sohn away on three pitches for the second out of the inning. Casey Turgeon then came to the plate and quickly fell behind 0-2. He then grounded a ball down to Mittelstaedt, whose throw across the diamond, nailing Turgeon for the third out and the celebration began.
The Wichita Wingnuts poured onto the mound, but home plate umpire Joe Stegner called off the celebration, ruling that Kussmaul had committed a balk, despite the fact that he did not stop play to make the call until after the out was made, and the fact that replay showed that Kussmaul stopped not once, but twice before bringing the ball to home plate. With a second chance, Turgeon drilled a ball to left-center that was just out of the reach of Morris, falling in for a double. That allowed Darvill to score to tie the game and the marathon was on.
Mikey O’Brien came on for Winnipeg and pitched incredibly well, tossing six scoreless frames in the 10th through the 15th innings. Wichita had the go ahead run at third in both the 12th and 14th, but O’Brien got out of it in each case.
That Wingnuts bullpen was just as effective. Following the ninth inning run, Kussmaul retired the side in the 10th. Josh Goosen-Brown came on in the 11th and tossed two one-hit innings, striking out three. James Campbell pitched two scoreless innings to take it to the 15th. Seth Harvey then tossed two scoreless innings, setting up the dramatic bottom of the ninth.
Tyler Kane came on in relief for Wichita and was greeted by a base hit to center by Turgeon. Next up was David Rohm, who drilled a ball down the line in right and into the corner. Richard Prigatano retrieved the ball, but the relay throw to the plate was high, allowing Turgeon to score. The 17 inning contest was the longest in American Association history, lasting 5 hours and 59 minutes.
Game 5 is Tuesday night. Edwin Carl will go for Winnipeg. He will be opposed by Tim Brown. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.
By Robert Pannier