Clevlen, Vargas Lead Power Surge as Wingnuts Even Series, 9-3
A night after falling in walk-off fashion to the Sioux City Explorers, the Wichita Wingnuts made sure that there was going to be no heroics on this night. Backed by an outstanding start by 12-game winner Alex Boshers and homers by Brent Clevlen and Leo Vargas, the Wingnuts jumped out to the lead and never looked back in the 9-3 victory. That evened the American Association playoff series between the two at 1-1.
It was a scoreless tie through the first two innings, but the Wingnuts would score solo runs in each of the next three innings. In the top of the third, Harrison Kain led off with a double. Two batters later Vargas singled up the middle and it was 1-0.
One inning later Wichita would extend their lead to two. Brent Clevlen was the first hitter of the inning, and he took the first pitch from Cody Forsythe and drilled it for his first homer of the playoffs. That made it 2-0.
Christian Stringer led off the top of the fifth with a single and moved to third when Clevlen doubled. A single by T.J. Mittelstaedt made it 3-0.
The Wichita Wingnuts were plating runs, but Sioux City was still very much in this contest. In the top of the sixth they looked to change that. Kain started the frame with a single and moved to second on a single by Vargas two batters later. Stringer was intentionally walked, bringing Zack Cox to the plate. He lined a base hit into left that scored both Kain and Vargas and it was 5-0.
Dylan Rheault came on in relief, and struck out Clevlen for the second out of the inning. However, Mittelstaedt would plate one more with a single to make it 6-0.
Boshers was his usual efficient self, retiring the first eight batters of the game and giving the Explorers no real chance to mount any kind of a rally. He breezed through the fifth, allowing just three total hits. Following the three Wichita runs in the top of the sixth, Sioux City would finally get on the board with a run in the bottom half of the inning. Michael Lang was hit by a pitch and Nate Samson followed with a single that moved Lang to third. LeVon Washington then grounded into a double-play that scored Lang to make it 6-1.
The Wingnuts got that run right back in the top of the seventh. Nick Van Stratten singled to get it started, but was replaced on the bases on fielder’s choice by Kain. Rheault then walked Martin Medina and Vargas back-to-back to load the bases and his night was over. Hobbs Johnson relieved and gave up a sacrifice fly to Stringer that extended the lead back to six.
The Explorers did a little responding of their own in the bottom of the seventh, chasing Boshers. Tommy Mendonca started the inning by reaching on an error, and Wednesday night’s hero, Ino Patron, singled to put two on with no out. That brought Bryan Johns to the plate, who lined a double down the line to score Mendonca. Gage Smith would relieve and finish off the inning, but not before giving up a sacrifice fly that score Patron to make it 7-3.
It would stay that way until the ninth when Wichita would pretty much put this game away. Medina doubled with one out and Vargas followed with a blast over the left-field wall for his first playoff homer. That made it 9-3, which would be the final.
Boshers (1-0) earned the victory, going 6-plus innings, allowing 7-hits, 3-runs, 2-earned, and a walk. He struck out 2. Forsythe took the loss.
The Wingnuts rapped out 16-hits, led by Vargas and Kain who each had three. Vargas also scored 2-runs and drove in 3. Kain scored 3-runs and Mittelstaedt and Cox each drove in 2. Tim Colwell had 3-hits for the Sioux City Explorers.
The two teams will have Friday off before playing Game 3 in Wichita Saturday night. First pitch is set for 7:05.
By Robert Pannier