The Laredo Lemurs have been as good as their South Division rivals in virtually every facet of the game this season, except for one: head-to-head. The Lemurs found it very hard to beat the Wichita Wingnuts this season, giving the Wingnuts ways to snatch victories. Sunday night was no exception.
After battling through close games in the first three contests of the best-of-five, the Wingnuts jumped out to an early 5-2 lead, and then held on to win 5-4 and advance to the Championship series. For Wichita it is the third consecutive trip to the finals. This time they hope that they can take home the big prize, as they have fallen short in the previous two attempts. Three’s a charm they say.
The evening started out great for Laredo, as they jumped on board in the first inning. Nick Van Stratten led off the game with a double and advanced to second on a sacrifice by Denis Phipps. Travis Denker then continued his clutch series, knocking in Van Stratten for the 1-0 lead. It was Denker’s third RBI of the series.
The Wingnuts were held scoreless by Lemurs starter Josh Strawn for the first two innings, but in the bottom of the third they would get on the board. Jake Luce, who had a big night for Wichita, led off the inning with a home run. Ryan Khoury, who has struggled for much of this series, singled, and was advanced to second on a sacrifice by Chris McClendon. That brought David Espinosa to the plate, and after working the count full, he singled to center driving Khoury home and giving the Wingnuts their first lead of the game.
In the top of the fourth the Lemurs got to Wingnuts starter Celson Polanco to tie the score. With two outs Byron Wiley doubled and Devin Goodwin delivered a clutch single that scored Wiley and knotted the game at 2.
It was an impressive moment for Laredo, who gave up two runs in the bottom of the third, and showed some moxie to come right back in their next at-bat and respond with a run of their own to tie the game. It is exactly the kind of thing that the Wingnuts normally do to teams, and unfortunately for the Lemurs, it is exactly what they would do to Laredo in their next at-bat.
The game was now tied, but Carlo Testa changed that when he took the first pitch he saw from Strawn and hit it over the left field fence for his second home run of the series, and a 3-2 Wichita lead. After Victor Diaz struck out, Chris McMurray doubled and scored on a double by Luce to extend the lead to two.
In the bottom of the fifth, Brent Clevlen lined a laser shot over the left field fence to provide an additional insurance run and extend the lead to three. No one knew it at the time, but that run would be absolutely essential for the victory.
Polanco was cruising, but in the seventh it got awfully hairy for Wichita. Goodwin singled to lead-off the inning, but Polanco got the next two batters to ground out. Kyle Brandenburg was behind in the count 1-2, but worked the count full before singling to score Goodwin. Van Stratten then singled to move Brandenburg to third, and Phipps followed with a single to drive Brandenburg home and cut the lead to one.
Polanco’s night was over at that point, as he finished with 6.2 innings pitched, 9 hits, 0 walks and 4 earned runs allowed. He had pitched a good game, but he left with runners at first and third with two outs. Chris Peacock relieved and had the daunting task of facing Denker, but on a 1-1 pitch he got the slugger to fly to right field to end the inning.
The nail-biter was now on. Chase Johnson took over in the eighth and retired the Lemurs in order, striking out one. In the ninth the Wingnuts turned to closer Dan Sattler, who has done the job, but lived dangerously virtually every time he has appeared. Tonight would be no different. Sattler retired the first batter of the inning, but then walked Carlos Ramirez. Harrison Kain pinch ran and stole second base. Brandenburg worked the count full before Sattler finally struck him out. That brought Van Stratten to the plate as the last hope for the Lemurs, but he flew out to center field to end the game and the series.
Polanco was the winner, earning his first post-season victory in the American Association, Strawn took the loss, and Sattler earned his second save of the series.
The Lemurs have nothing to hang their heads about. They played a great series, and were in every game up until they end. They just lost out to a team that is a baseball force. The Wingnuts were just a little too much for them.
The Wingnuts will now move on to play the winner of tomorrow night’s Game 5 between Winnipeg and Lincoln. No matter who the winner is, Wichita will begin Games 1 and 2 on the road, so they can have the final three games at home.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Baseball Editor
Member of the IBWAA
- Winning Pitcher: 94 – Celson Polanco
- Losing Pitcher: 10 – Josh Strawn
- Save Pitcher: 95 – Dan Sattler
- Date: 09/07/2014
- Start Time: 07:06 PM
- Duration: 2:54
- End Time: 10:00 PM
- Plate Umpire: Sean hicks
- Field Umpire #1: Bryan Childe
- Field Umpire #2: Anthony Sheets
- Field Umpire #3: Trent Delmont
- Location: Lawrence Dumont Stadium
- Attendance: 1031
- Weather: 80 deg, clear, SE 10 mph
|4||Van Stratten, N||CF||5||1||2||0||0||0||.125|
2B: N.Van Stratten (1), T.Denker (1), B.Wiley (1).
RBI: D.Phipps (3), T.Denker (3), D.Goodwin (1), K.Brandenburg (1).
SB: H.Kain (1).
Team LOB: 6.Fielding
A: D.Phipps (1), T.Denker 3 (10), D.Goodwin 3 (13), K.Brandenburg (3).
E: T.Denker (1).
PO: N.Van Stratten (7), T.Denker 2 (4), J.Alonso 9 (32), D.Goodwin (7), J.Ramirez (7), C.Ramirez 9 (31), K.Brandenburg (3).
SBA: C.Ramirez (6).
TC: N.Van Stratten (7), D.Phipps (8), T.Denker 6 (15), J.Alonso 9 (32), D.Goodwin 4 (20), J.Ramirez (7), C.Ramirez 9 (33), K.Brandenburg 2 (6).
2B: D.Espinosa (1), C.McMurray (2), J.Luce (1).
HR: B.Clevlen (1), C.Testa (2), J.Luce (1).
RBI: D.Espinosa (1), B.Clevlen (3), C.Testa (4), J.Luce (3).
SB: B.Clevlen (1).
Team LOB: 9.Fielding
A: R.Khoury 4 (10), C.McClendon 3 (13), A.Nieves 2 (5), C.Polanco (1).
PO: R.Khoury (2), C.McClendon (3), D.Espinosa (17), B.Clevlen 3 (8), A.Nieves (9), C.Testa 3 (11), V.Diaz 10 (24), D.Amberson (2), C.McMurray 6 (26).
SBA: C.McMurray (1).
TC: R.Khoury 5 (12), C.McClendon 4 (17), D.Espinosa (18), B.Clevlen 3 (8), A.Nieves 3 (14), C.Testa 3 (11), V.Diaz 10 (24), D.Amberson (2), C.McMurray 6 (28), C.Polanco (1).
BF: J.Strawn 19, T.Pearson 18, C.Graham 1.
P-S: J.Strawn 71-46, T.Pearson 82-42, C.Graham 3-2.
BF: C.Polanco 29, C.Peacock 1, C.Johnson 3, D.Sattler 4.
P-S: C.Polanco 98-68, C.Peacock 3-2, C.Johnson 13-9, D.Sattler 24-13.