Jason Van Skike Grounds AirHogs in 7-2 Wichita Wingnuts Win
It is hard to make an assessment about how good a team is after just five home games, but if the results for the Wichita Wingnuts are any indication, this pitching staff is going to be pretty awesome. Jason Van Skike held the Grand Prairie AirHogs to just three hits and one run over seven innings of work. The Wichita pitching staff has now allowed just six runs in 47 innings pitched at home this season; a ridiculous 1.14 ERA.
The Wichita Wingnuts offense has proven to be a lot less formidable than last season’s team. Early on they have not had the run production that fans became accustomed to, but that was not true on this night. A seven-run, 12-hit attack supported Van Skike’s performance and staked the Wingnuts starter to a lead that Grand Prairie was not going to overcome.
It was a pitchers’ duel through the first three innings, as Van Skike and Bennett Whitmore (0-1) kept the game scoreless. Whitmore retired the minimum through three, only allowing a second inning single to TJ Mittelstaedt, who was doubled up on a grounder by Alberto Gonzalez.
Meanwhile, Van Skike was on his game. He did not allow a hit through the first five innings, and two second inning walks were the only blemishes on his pitching line. The righty was in complete control.
Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper shook up his lineup before the game, moving around several players in the batting order, and it paid off. In the fourth the ‘Nuts got on the board with two runs. The hot hitting Jayce Ray led off with a double and moved to third on a single by Luis Hernandez. A passed ball scored Ray and Hernandez came home on a sacrifice fly by Mittelstaedt to make it 2-0.
In the fifth Wichita would extend the lead to four. Dustin Geiger and Brent Dean led off with back-to-back singles, and Tyler Coughenour moved both into scoring position with a perfect sacrifice bunt. Ray delivered the first run of the inning home with a single that scored Geiger, and Hernandez followed with an RBI single of his own that scored Dean.
In the sixth, the Wingnuts blew the game open. John Nester, who had been moved to the cleanup role for the game, led off the sixth with a single, and advanced to second on a single by Mittelstaedt. Alberto Gonzalez took a Whitmore offering and drilled it into the gap in left-center field, scoring both runners. That would be it for Whitmore. Zachary Dando took over, and after retiring Geiger, Dean singled to drive home Gonzalez to make it 7-0.
The sixth was a great inning offensively for Wichita, but it was also the inning that ended Van Skike’s no-hit bid. With one out, Chris Elder lined a single to center field for the first hit of the game. The right-handers scoreless string ended when Grand Prairie scored a run in the seventh. Zane Chavez doubled to lead off the inning and scored three batters later on a single by Victor Ferrante.
The AirHogs added one more run in the ninth against reliever Scott Kuzminsky. With one out Grand Prairie rapped four straight hits. Victor Diaz had the first of those hits, and he came around to score on a single by Ryan Gasporra. With the bases loaded and one out, Kuzminsky got Jamodrick McGruder to line out to Gonzalez who threw to second for the double-play to end the game.
Van Skike (1-0) was the winner. He pitched 7 innings, allowing just 3 hits, 2 walks and a run. He also struck out 4. The Wingnuts starters have allowed just two runs in 32 innings so far in the first five games of the home stand. A completely amazing run.
Four Wichita Wingnuts players had two hits for the game. Gonzalez was 2-4 with a run scored and 2 RBI. Dean was 2-3 with a run and an RBI. Both Ray and Hernandez were 2-4 with a run and an RBI.
By Robert Pannier