Wichita Wingnuts Bats Batter Lincoln Saltdogs in 15-10 Win: Wingnuts Wire
For the last four games the Wichita Wingnuts have watched there amazing starting staff head to the mound and pitch 26 innings of work with just one earned run allowed. The outstanding run might have made some forget that this is the most potent lineup in the league. Tonight the Lincoln Saltdogs learned that at Wingnuts U. they teach all facets of the game, including how a punishing lineup can even batter a team’s ace.
Frank Del Valle started for Wichita and was quickly in a lot of trouble in the first. The first three batters of the game had hits, including Jon Gaston’s RBI double that scored lead-off man Chad Mozingo to make it 1-0. One out later Brain Joynt doubled and both Luis Nunez and Gaston scored making it 3-0.
Most teams would take a “one run at a time” approach to getting back into the game, but that is not how they teach it at Wingnuts U. Here they teach that when a team has a big inning, it is time to respond with a big inning of their own, and that is what they did.
The first six batters of the inning reached base, with Ryan Khoury and Jake Luce leading off with walks. David Espinosa and Brett Clevlen followed with singles, Clevlen’s scoring Khoury and Luce, and then newly acquired second baseman Abel Nieves and Carlo Testa doubled. Nieves drove in Espinosa and Clevlen, and Testa’s plated Nieves.
The Saltdogs had to have felt so good about their chances. They scored three runs in the top of the first, and had their ace, Marquis Fleming, on the hill, yet just six batters into the bottom of first that lead was erased and they were now trailing 5-3. Even worse was that there was still no one out.
After Chris McMurray flew out for the first out of the inning, Chris McClendon doubled to score Testa. Jared McDonald and Ryan Khoury followed with strikeouts to end the inning, but the damage was done, and it was done with authority. Six runs, five hits, and a 6-3 lead, and the game was just in the first inning.
Both pitchers sailed through the second inning, but in the third Del Valle was back in trouble. With one out Ian Gac walked, and Bryan Joynt then followed with a triple that gave him his third RBI of the game. Matt Forgatch followed Joynt’s hit with a single, and the Saltdogs were down by just one.
While Del Valle was still struggling a bit, Fleming looked to be regaining his composure, holding the Wingnuts scoreless until the fifth. After giving up just a hit and walk from the second to the fourth innings, Carlo Testa put the Wingnuts back on the scoreboard with his ninth home run of the year.
In the sixth both teams would get a run. In the top half Forgatch tripled with one out, and scored when Luna hit a sac fly to right field. In the bottom half Ryan Khoury doubled with one out, and moved to third on a fly ball by Luce. Espinosa then singled and the lead was back to 8-6.
Both starters last innings were the sixth. Fleming had given up 10 hits, four walks and eight earned runs, while striking out seven. Del Valle had not pitched much more effectively, giving up 1o hits, three walks and six earned runs, while striking out two. Despite the struggles of both starters, both pitchers would receive a no-decision.
In the top of the seventh the Wingnuts turned to Daniel Bennett. He gave up a walk to Mozingo and then a single to Nunez that put runners at first and second with no one out. Bennett quickly got ahead of Gaston 0-2, but his next pitch was over the plate enough that the center fielder deposited it over the left field fence for a three-run homer, and a 9-8 Saltdogs lead.
It was a great comeback, and a huge rally in the seventh to give Lincoln the lead, but the Saltdogs neglected to remember the lesson that the faculty taught in the first inning – that at Wingnuts U. they don’t just chip away, they respond to a big inning with a big inning of their own.
Jhonny Montoya relieved Fleming and walked Testa to lead-off the inning. Testa stole second for his 22nd steal of the year, and advanced to third on a ground out. McClendon then singled to score Testa and tie the game. McDonald then followed with a walk, and Ryan Khoury grounded into a fielder’s choice that scored McClendon. Luce then doubled to score Khoury and Montoya’s night was over. Justin Kuks relieved and Espinosa greeted him with a single to score Luce to make it 12-9 Wingnuts. How do the Wingnuts respond to giving up three runs in the top half of an inning? By scoring four of their own in the bottom half.
In the top of the eighth Lincoln was able to score their 1oth run of the game to pull within two, but Wingnuts U. teaches to crush all hope out of an opponent, and that is what they did. Nieves and Testa singled to lead-off the inning, and both advanced into scoring position on a ground out by McMurray. McClendon then lined a double to score both runners, and the lead was four again. For McClendon it was his third and fourth RBI of the game. McDonald then followed with a double of his own, and it was 15-10 at that point.
Jon Link would come into close out the ninth and showed the same brilliance he flashed on Sunday, striking out two batters in his one inning of work. For Link he has struck out 18 in his last eight innings of work. Mike Zouzalik got the win to move to 4-0. It was his third win in his last six appearances.
The Wingnuts got 17 hits in the game, led by Espinosa, Testa and McClendon who each had three hits. Khoury scored three runs, McClendon had four RBI and four other players had two. Gaston finished with two hits and four RBI for Lincoln.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Baseball Editor
Member of the IBWAA