Wichita Wingnuts U. Teaches the Science of Never Letting Up: Wingnuts Wire
The Wichita Wingnuts have nothing to prove. They have set the American Association record for most wins in a season. They have the best record in the league. They are the first team to reach 70 wins in a single season in league history. They rank first in the league in batting average and runs scored. They set a league record for stolen bases in a season with 171. Not only are the best hitting team in the league, but they have the best team ERA in the American Association and they have given up the second least amount of hits of any team in the league. This is a team that has done all they need to do to prove that they are the best club in the league.
With just a few games left in the season it would make sense that the Wingnuts would give some of their key guys days off heading into the playoffs. Their final games were against the Laredo Lemurs, the team they will face in the first round of the playoffs, and with a 12-game lead over the Lemurs there was no reason to play their top guys. They had already proven that they were the best team in the regular season. Wichita had even taken three of four from the Lemurs in Laredo last weekend, and had won the first game of this series already. There was clearly nothing left to prove, so no one would have faulted the Wingnuts for taking a break in these remaining few games. That would be the natural thing to do. It just wouldn’t be the Wingnuts way to do things.
After beating the Lemurs 10-5 Friday night, the Wingnuts put another double-digit number on the board, this time winning 10-3, .Chris McMurray had the big hit of the game, a three-run home run in the sixth that extended the lead to 5-0, and starter Anthony Capra shut out Laredo for six innings in earning his seventh win of the season against just two losses. A special night for many teams, but for the Wingnuts it was just another day at the office for a team that sees each game as a battle that must be won. There is no taking the foot off the gas at Wingnuts U. They play to win whether they have a one game lead in the division or a 12-game one. Winning is more than just a passion, it is a science.
The Wingnuts proved again Saturday night why they are so hard to beat. For three innings they were held scoreless by Lemurs starter Michael Suk. That was no problem though, as Wingnuts starter Antony Capra was holding the potent Lemurs lineup silent as well. Through four, he allowed just three hits and two walks to start the game, giving his team the chance to mount a rally against Suk. They would soon do that.
In the fourth his teammates staked him to a 2-0 lead. With one out, Carlo Testa reached on an infield single. Testa advanced to second on a balk before McMurray flew out to center. That brought Chris McClendon to the plate, and the third baseman singled, scoring Testa. Ryan Khoury then followed with a double to plate McClendon and make it 2-0.
The score would remain a two-run Wingnuts lead until the bottom of the sixth when Wichita scored seven runs and sent ten men to the plate. Abel Nieves and Testa both reached base to lead-off the inning and McMurray followed with his seventh home run of the year and a 5-0 Wingnuts lead. Chris McClendon followed with a single, and Ryan Khoury doubled to send McClendon to third. Jake Luce was then hit by a pitch to load the bases and there was still no one out. David Espinosa drew a walk, scoring McClendon, and Brent Clevlen then grounded into a fielder’s choice cutting down Khoury at the plate and giving Laredo their first out of the inning. By that point the Wingnuts had added four runs, and increased their lead to 6-0. Victor Diaz then grounded out to score Luce and Nieves followed with a single scoring Espinosa and Clevlen to make the score 9-0.
It was just another typical Wingnuts rally. The first seven batters reached base. Every person in the lineup contributes. There is no letting up on an opponent who is reeling. There is a passion to score in every at-bat. That is the science of winning taught at Wingnuts U.
With a tremendous lead, manager Kevin Hooper gave his starter an early night, and turned the game over to his bullpen. The Lemurs plated two in the top of the seventh, but the Wingnuts got one back in the bottom half of the inning, as Clevlen beat out an infield single that scored Brent Dean and made it 10-2. For Clevlen it was his second hit of the night, raising his average to .369 and increasing his lead in the race for the American Association batting title by eight points.
The Lemurs added one more run in the eighth inning, but in the ninth Chase Johnson retired the side and ended the game at 10-3. For Johnson it was his sixth straight scoreless appearance since joining the Wingnuts.
For the Wingnuts it was win No. 71, increasing their American Association league record. It was also another example of how this team expects to win every night, and how when a player steps on the field wearing a Wingnuts uniform, he better be prepared to give it his all. They know they are not going to win every night, but Wingnuts U teaches that a player plays like they can win every game. It’s just the Wingnuts’ Way.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Baseball Editor
Member of the IBWAA