Brent Dean Home Run Gives Wichita Wingnuts Extra Inning Win
On Saturday night it was time for Lesson 2 from the faculty at Wingnuts University. Friday night’s lesson focused on responding following an opening day loss. In the contest, the Wichita Wingnuts demonstated the fundamentals of baseball, delivering timely hitting and outstanding pitching from Professor Tim Brown in the club’s 10-3 win.
Saturday night’s lesson was one that the club has not been forced to lecture upon in recent memory, but they was forced to pull out the lesson plan following an injury to starter Jason Van Skike. That led to the lesson of the day: What to Do When Your Starter Goes Down Early.
Wingnuts University president Kevin Hooper is known to be one who always has his team prepared, no matter what the circumstance of the game may be. In the second inning Van Skike took a shot off the shin that forced him to leave the game. No problem for the Wingnuts though. They simply brought in one of their new professors to take over the instruction.
Wichita got on the scoreboard in the top of the first against Joplin starter Rob Tejada. The Blasters starter retired the first two hitters, but could not close out the frame, walking T.J. Mittelstaedt. Dustin Geiger followed by beating out a grounder to keep the inning alive, and David Espinosa, the Dean of the Wingnuts Hitting Department, delivered a single that scored Mittelstaedt.
In the bottom of the second a hard grounder hit right off Van Skike’s shin. It was clear the right-hander was hurt, and manager Kevin Hooper made the call for Scott Kuzminsky to take over. He finished off the second and maintained the 1-0 lead.
In the top of the third the Wingnuts extended their lead. Luis Hernandez led off with a double and advanced to third on a single by Alberto Gonzalez. Mittelstaedt then hit a fly ball to left field that was deep enough to score Hernandez and it was 2-0 Wichita.
Kuminsky held the lead through the first three innings, but in the fourth the Blasters would tie the score. Carlos Ramirez led off the inning with his first home run of the season to cut the lead in half. The Wingnuts reliever was able to retire the next two batters, but Mitch Glasser ripped a double to keep the inning alive. Maikol Gonzalez then singled to center field to plate Glasser and it was tied.
The Wichita Wingnuts then took a page out of last year’s curriculum and did what they do best – respond. Last season no team was better at scoring right after an opponent had driven runs home against them. It is good to see that they return to the basics when called upon to do so.
In the top of the fifth, Gonzalez hit a ground rule double and Mittelstaedt followed with a sacrifice that moved the runner to third. Geiger delivered a big base hit to score Gonzalez and the Wingnuts were back on top. The Blasters replaced Tejada with Matt Swilley and he retired Espinosa for the second out of the inning, but John Nester singled to keep the inning alive. Brent Dean then hit a grounder to the shortstop that should have ended the inning, but Gonzalez misplayed it, and Geiger scored. That made it 4-2 Wichita.
Joplin was down, but they were in no way out. In the sixth they got one of the runs back against super setup guy Daniel Bennett when Jake Taylor led off the inning with a home run. In the bottom of the seventh Al Yevoli was pitching for the visitors. He gave up a single to Yasser Gomez to being the inning, and two batters later walked Ramirez. A wild pitch moved up both runners and two batters later Omar Luna tied the game with a single.
It was an amazing comeback against the vaunted Wingnuts bullpen which has become a staple of the team’s success over the last few years. This may have been a big moment for the Joplin Blasters to come back like this, but if anyone thought this was going to cause angst for the Wingnuts they clearly don’t know what kind of temperament is needed to be a part of the teams’ faculty.
The Wingnuts stayed cool and retired the Joplin Blasters in the eighth and ninth to send the game into extra innings. It was the Blasters first extra-inning affair in club history and they clearly wanted to make it a positive one. Unfortunately, Wichita was not a very gracious guest.
Espinosa led off with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice by Nester. That brought Dean to the plate who took a 1-1 offering from Jake Meiers and drilled it over the wall for a two-run homer. That made the game 6-4.
Dr. Matt Nevarez had taken over for Wichita in the ninth and got in a little trouble before a double-play bailed him out. In the tenth he would have no such troubles. The righty retired the Blasters in order, ending the game by a final of 6-4. Nevarez (1-0) earned the win, while Meiers (0-1) took the loss.
The Joplin Blasters finished with 11-hits. Gomez, Luna and Glasser each had two.
The Wichita Wingnuts also had 11-hits, led by Espinosa who went 3-5 with a run and an RBI. Dean had two hits, one of which was his game-winning home run.
While it was a lot closer game than manager Kevin Hooper would probably like, it once again proved that the president of Wingnuts U knows how use his staff to teach lessons. Six pitchers made contributions to the night’s success, which may mean that they need a big outing from their starter tomorrow since much of their bullpen had to be used tonight. Hmm, sounds like tomorrow’s lesson.
By Robert Pannier