Before the second largest opening day crowd in the team’s history, the Wichita Wingnuts scored eight unanswered runs on their way to an 8-2 victory over the Kansas City T-Bones. Zach Nehrir made an impressive debut for the Wingnuts, posting 3 hits and driving in 3 runs and Travis Barnwart struck out 8 in earning his first win in a Wichita uniform.
Both starters dominated through the first three innings. Travis Banwart struck out 6 through the first three frames, while Luis Paula had a perfect game.
In the fourth, the Kansas T-Bones would take the lead. With one down, Adam Walker roped a double down the line in left. Two batters later, Cal Towey drilled his first home run of the season over the wall in left-center field to make it 2-0 Kansas City.
The lead did not last long as the Wingnuts responded with four runs in the bottom half of the inning. Logan Watkins began the inning by grounding the ball down to third. The throw was wild, allowing him to reach second. Two batters later, Abel Nieves lined a single into left field that scored Watkins to cut the deficit in half. Paula was a little lax on the mound and Nieves took advantage, running for second. He stole second as Paula’s attempt to throw him out went into center field, allowing Nieves to reach third. Two batters later, Zack Nehrir singled into left, scoring Nieves and the game was tied.
Francisco Gracesqui relieved for Kansas City. He walked John Nester before Logan Trowbridge lined a ball to the wall in left-center that he legged out for a triple. Both runners scored and it was 4-2 Wichita.
In the sixth, the Wingnuts extended their lead. Julio Eusebio came on in relief for the T-Bones and hit Nieves with the first pitch he threw. Tony Thomas popped a ball up just past home plate that swirled in the wind, hitting off the third baseman’s glove for a base hit. The Kansas City third basemen then threw wildly allowing both runners to move into scoring position. Nehrir followed with a ground double just inside the third base bag, scoring both runners to make it 6-2. Two batters later, Trowbridge and Nick Kaye earned back-to-back walks, and Nehrir came home on a sacrifice fly by Leo Vargas to extend the lead to five.
The Wingnuts added one more run in the seventh. Jared Reaves and Nieves started the inning with back-to-back singles before Nehrir singled to load the bases two batters later. A wild pitch brought home Reaves to make it 8-2.
That was plenty enough support for Banwart (1-0) on this night. The right-hander dominated for the most part, allowing 4-hits while striking out 8.
He came out after five and the Wichita Wingnuts bullpen took over from there. Seth Harvey tossed 2 innings of 1-hit relief, striking out 2. In the eighth, Brady Bowen tossed a perfect inning of relief, and Parker Sanburn finished it off by striking out the side in the ninth. In all, the Wingnuts pitching staff struck out 14.
Zach Nehrir finished the night 3-4 with 2-runs scored and 3-RBI for the Wichita Wingnuts. Abel Nieves was also 3-4, scoring 2-runs and driving in another. Cal Towey had a hit and 2-RBI for Kansas City.
The Wingnuts drew 4,271, the largest opening day crowd since their first game 11 seasons ago. The team will now look to build off that momentum as they send Casey Harman to the hill Saturday night. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.
Join the Inaugural episode of Ring’Em Up with Manager Brent Clevlen
Featured Image by Ed Bailey
By Robert Pannier