You got to hand it to Anthony Capra. He knows how to make a splashy entrance. After being side-lined for nearly two months, Capra returned to the mound in Wichita Friday night to pitch seven scoreless innings against the Grand Prairie AirHogs. Capra rejoins the “faculty” at Wingnuts University, and gave the AirHogs a lesson in how to dominate a game, as well as how to get out of a jam.
Professor Capra had not been on the mound to instruct since June 26, so understandably he had to work off the rust at first. With one out he gave up a double to Alex Nunez, and then one out later hit Jason Botts. With runners at first and second Capra was not going to let his first start back get underway with any kind of a two-out rally, so his first pitch to Brian Myrow got the AirHogs player to ground to short to end the inning.
Capra was getting into the groove in the second. He retired the first two batters of the inning before walking Madison Carter. No problem for the 27-year-old righty however. Eric Baker grounded to third, and another scoreless inning was in the books.
In the third he issued a one out walk to Alex Nunez. Abel Nieves then hit into a fielder’s choice and later advanced to second on a wild pitch. However, Capra remained calm about it, inducing Botts to fly to centerfield for the third out.
With three solid, scoreless innings in the books, Professor Capra returned to his place at the lectern, the mound, in the fourth ready to take his lesson for the day to a whole new level. He had been teaching introductory pitching in the first three innings, but now it was time to show how to dominate an opponent, and that is what he did. Capra dominated with a 1-2-3 inning, striking out Myrow to begin the inning and Matthew Burns to end it.
In the fifth he struck out the side on just 13 pitches. What was most impressive is that he didn’t give any of the batters any kind of chance to work the count. Each batter received just one ball, and all three struck out swinging. He was on-fire, and the AirHogs hitters were learning a valuable lesson on how to return with gusto.
In the sixth it was time for a different lesson – what a pitcher does when he gets into a little trouble. After getting the first out of the inning, Capra gave up a singles to Nieves and Botts to put runners at first and second with one out. After retiring the second batter of the inning, Brian Peterson drew a walk, loading the bases. Was the righty in trouble? Not in the least. Burns quickly got behind 1-2 before striking out swinging to end the threat. That was six strikeouts in the last three innings.
Capra returned to the mound in the seventh for his last inning of work. He gave up a lead-off single to Madison Carter, and then Carter stole second to put a runner at second with no one out. One last lesson to teach – how to crush a potential rally by stranding runners in scoring position. Eric Baker grounded back to the mound for one out. Mojica then grounded to short for the second out, although Carter reached third on the play. Time to dig a little deeper for his final instruction. Capra jammed Nunez on an 1-0 pitch, with Nunez hitting a soft pop into shallow left field that was grabbed by Chris McClendon and the inning was over.
Seven scoreless innings in his return from Professor Capra and 96 pitches of instruction. He finished with an outstanding line of four hits and three walks allowed, with seven strikeouts. Most important was that no runs crossed the plate during his time on the mound. The seven scoreless innings dropped his ERA 2.38 and he is now 5-2 on the season. As if the Wingnuts were not loaded enough entering the playoffs, the return of Capra should make them even more dominant, a very scary thought for players in Lincoln, Laredo and Winnipeg.
While Capra was doing the job on the mound, his teammates were battering AirHogs pitchers. Ryan Khoury and Jake Luce had a great night at the plate in the 1-2 spots in the batting order. Khoury went 3-4 with a run and two RBI, and Luce had two hits including his first home run of the year. He also scored two runs and drove in three.
Three other Wichita hitters were having big nights as well. Carlo Testa added two hits including his eighth home run of the year, Brent Dean had three hits and two runs scored, and Taylor Oldham had two hits, a run scored and three RBI. While Khoury and Luce had a huge night at the top of the order, Dean and Oldham had an equally impressive one at the bottom.
The Wingnuts battered the three AirHogs pitchers they faced for 15 hits and 11 runs in the 11-4 victory. Amazingly, Dean Brent Clevlen, the team’s No. 1 “bat-man” went hitless on the night, yet he did have an RBI.
After spending the last three weeks on the road, Wichita finally returned to their own campus at Wingnuts University and delivered a solid set of lessons to the Grand Prairie AirHogs. The two will enter the “classroom” on Saturday night again, when Tim Brown goes for his ninth win against RHP Ryan Searle.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Baseball Editor
Member of the IBWAA