Andy LaRoche, David Espinosa Propel Wichita Wingnuts to 10th Inning Victory
It didn’t take long for Andy LaRoche to fit into the faculty at Wingnuts University, as the first baseman’s single tied the score in the ninth, and Dean David Espinosa drove home the winner in the 10th as the Wichita Wingnuts downed the Grand Prairie AirHogs 4-3.
It was a classic pitchers’ duel through the first seven innings of the game. Scott Richmond started for Wichita, and the right-hander retired five of the first six hitters he faced, only yielding a lead-off single in the second, but that runner was erased on a double-play.
In the third the AirHogs took the lead. Richmond retired the first hitter of the inning, but worked the count full to Jordy Hart. Hart then hit his first home run of the season to give Grand Prairie the lead.
Richmond remained poised from there. Over the final four innings he allowed just three singles and a walk. For the game he went 7 innings, allowing 5 total hits, a walk, and an earned run while striking out 6. It was his fourth straight outing where he has pitched at least 6 innings and gave up two or fewer runs. Richmond’s ERA dropped to 1.84.
Through the first six innings the Wingnuts had no answer for AirHogs starter Brett Wallach. The right-hander retired the first 13 hitters of the game, seeing his perfect game come to an end on a walk with one out in the fifth. However Wallach had a no-hitter going through six, and had retired the minimum for the game. It was an absolutely dominating start that saw the right-hander strike out six through the first six frames.
In the seventh Wallach retired the first two hitters of the inning, but on a 2-1 pitch T.J. Mittelstaedt tied the game with his team-leading 11th home run of the season. That was also Mittelstaedt’s 50th RBI of the season.
In the top of the eighth Grand Prairie responded right away to retake the lead. Frankie Reed came in for Wichita, and gave up a walk to Miguel Castano and a single to Jamodrick McGruder to begin the inning. The Wingnuts turned to Daniel Bennett who made a throwing error that allowed Ronnie Richardson to reach first, while Castano scored to make it 2-1. Willie Cabrera’s single brought home McGruder to make it a two-run lead, and it looked like the Wingnuts may come away with a loss.
In the ninth Logan Norris came on to close out the game and, after retiring the first two hitters of the inning, it looked like he would do just that. A costly error allowed Espinosa to reach first to keep the game going. A single by T.J. Mittelstaedt put two runners on and both were safe on a double steal that put the two into scoring position. That brought LaRoche to the plate. The former Major Leaguer took a 1-0 pitch from Norris and drove it up the middle to score both runners to tie the game.
That sent it to extra innings. Paul Smyth relieved and gave up a one-out double to McGruder, but that would be as far as he would move.
In the bottom of the tenth Colin Allen came on for Grand Prairie. He was greeted by a Harrison Kain single, with Kain moving to second on a sacrifice bunt by Taylor Smart. Two hitters later Jayce Ray walked, bringing David Espinosa to the plate. The Wingnuts right fielder fouled off the first pitch, then singled to right, scoring Kain with the winning run.
Smyth (1-0) earned the victory in his second appearance with the team. Allen (1-3) took the loss.
Espinosa finished 1-5 with a run scored and an RBI. LaRoche was 2-4 with 2 RBI. Mittelstaedt was 1-3 with 2 runs and an RBI.
By Robert Pannier