David Espinosa Double Leads Wichita Wingnuts Comeback Win
For six innings it looked like the Wichita Wingnuts were going to drop another close one. It has been quite a challenge to plate runs this season for the American Association champions, but this became an object lesson in how they operate at Wingnuts University. A two-run double capped off a three-run seventh and the Wingnuts pulled off the 4-3 victory over the Gary Southshore RailCats.
Jason Van Skike started for the Wichita Wingnuts, and he breezed through the first, retiring the RailCats in order. In the bottom of the second the Wichita starter hit J.D. Pulfer to begin the inning. Adam Taylor bunted Pulfer to second and Roger Bernel followed with a single that scored the runner to make it 1-0.
Andy Roberts started for Gary and he was shutting the Wingnuts down through the first four innings. The Wingnuts were getting runners on base but were unable to take advantage of their opportunities. In the fifth they were finally able to tie the game.
With one out, Luis Hernandez doubled to left field. A wild pitch moved him to third and Alberto Gonzalez’s infield single brought Hernandez home to make it 1-1.
The RailCats responded right away. With one out, Michael Vaughn was hit by a pitch and moved to second on a dribbler that Van Skike fielded but could not make any play on. A wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position and Jon Jones’s triple to the wall brought both home to make it 3-1.
That is the way it would stay through six, as Roberts pitched a gem. He was out of the game after pitching 6 innings, allowing 6 hits, 2 walks and an earned run. He also struck out 2.
Paul Mittura took over for Roberts in the seventh, but he could not hold the lead. John Nester beat out an infield single to begin the inning and moved to second on a single by Dustin Geiger. A passed ball brought Nester home to make it a one run game. Hernandez eventually grounded out, and Mittura was replaced by Chuck Fontana.
The tying run was third when Fontana came in. He walked Jayce Ray to put runners at the corners, and a big strikeout of Gonzalez made it two outs. That brought Espinosa to the plate, who is quietly having an amazing season in Wichita. The Dean of Offense fouled off the first two pitches, before taking a ball. Espinosa then took the Fontana offering and lined it to the wall, scoring both runs and giving the Wingnuts their first lead of the game.
Now leading by a run Van Skike closed out the RailCats in the seventh. That would be his last inning, as he left after pitching seven. The righty allowed 5 hits and 3 runs, while striking out two. Most importantly was the fact that he was winning.
Daniel Carela relieved in the eighth and retired the side to keep it 4-3 entering the ninth. That brought a call for Dr. K, Matt Nevarez, to close it out. The big right-hander struck out the first two batters he faced before getting the final out for his seventh save of the young season. Nevarez also ran his scoreless streak to 11 appearances this season.
Van Skike moved his record to 3-1 on the season. Fontana took the loss to fall to 1-1. The one run he allowed was the first time that the lefty has been scored upon this season.
By Robert Pannier