Brent Clevlen Leads Historic Comeback as Wichita Wingnuts Win, 10-9
The Amarillo Thunderheads had to be feeling pretty good about themselves when they jumped out to a 7-0 lead. Little did they know that Brent Clevlen was going to flash his 2014 MVP form, joining Andy LaRoche in leading a dramatic comeback that saw the Wichita Wingnuts battle back to win 10-9. That moved the Wingnuts magic number to two games to clinch the South Division in the American Association.
Eddie Medina started for Wichita, and for the second straight start he struggled. His troubles began in the top of the first inning. Juan Martinez got the Thunderheads rolling with a single to start the game. He then moved to second when Ricardo Rodriguez reached on an error. Stefan Gartrell followed with a double, scoring both runners, and it was 2-0 Amarillo.
In the third the visitors took a commanding lead. Ricardo Rodriguez began the inning with his first home run of the season. Gartrell was then hit by a pitch and moved to second on an infield single by Dexter Kjerstad. That brought Geraldo Valentin to the plate, who ripped a ball that hoped the fence for a ground rule double. That scored Gartrell and it was 4-0 Amarillo.
There was second and third and still no one out, when Christian Ibarra hit a ground rule double as well that scored both runners. Up by six the Thunderheads added one more run when Corey Bass delivered the third double of the inning for the club, driving home Ibarra to make it 7-0.
This was looking bad for the Wichita Wingnuts, especially considering that Amarillo starter Richie Mirowski had given the Wingnuts a shot in the bottom of the second when the bases were loaded with just one out. However he worked himself out of that jam without the home team being able to score.
Following the five-run top of the third, Wichita came right back in the bottom half of the inning. Jayce Ray singled to get the inning started and Clevlen followed with a single to put two on with no one out. LaRoche loaded the bases with a single deep into the hole at short and there was still no one out. Mirowski was able to retire the next hitter, but an error on a ball hit by Harrison Kain scored Ray and kept the bases loaded. Taylor Oldham followed with a double, clearing the bases and cutting the deficit to just three.
In the bottom of the fourth inning Wichita pulled to within two. Nick Van Stratten singled to begin the inning and Ray walked to put runners at first and second. Clevlen then lined a base hit into left field that loaded the bases again with no one out. A walk to LaRoche brought home Van Stratten, but Mirowski then dug deep, getting T. J. Mittelstaedt to ground out on a play that cut down the runner at home. Kain then struck out before Oldham grounded out to end the threat.
In the bottom of the fifth the Wingnuts got on the scoreboard again. Back-to-back-to-back singles by Brent Dean, Leo Vargas and Van Stratten got the inning rolling. Van Stratten’s hit scored Dean, and Clevlen drove home Ray with a single that tied the score. It was a truly remarkable comeback indeed.
Neither team scored in the sixth, but in the seventh the Wichita Wingnuts took their first lead of the game. Van Stratten singled to get the inning going and moved to second on a Ray sacrifice. Clevlen followed with a double that brought Van Stratten home to make it 8-7. That was an historic moment for Clevlen, as he became the franchise’s all-time leader in RBI (168) and doubles (70) with the hit. Clevlen finished 4-5 with 2 runs and 2 RBI.
The damage would not end there however. LaRoche followed with his sixth home run of the season, scoring Clevlen ahead of him and extending the lead to 10-7. LaRoche had a big day as well, going 2-4 with 2 runs and 3 RBI.
In the ninth the Thunderheads mounted a rally and threatened to tie the game or retake the lead. Closer Paul Smyth came in to close it out, but a single and an error put Gartrell at second to get things started. Smyth retired the next two hitters, but Ibarra hit his seventh home run of the season to bring Amarillo to within one. Smyth remained poised however, striking out Jordan Guida to end the game. That was Smyth’s sixth save of the season.
Daniel Bennett (1-8) earned his first victory for the Wichita Wingnuts this season. He went one inning, striking out two to earn the win.
Van Stratten also had a hot day at the plate for Wichita. He was 3-5 with 2 runs and an RBI. Taylor Oldham was 2-5 with 3 RBI and Brent Dean was 2-4 with a run scored. Ibarra was 3-5 with 2 runs and 4 RBI in a losing effort.
By Robert Pannier