Jayce Ray Truly Leads Wichita Wingnuts to 7-4 Victory
It is true that Jayce Ray has been an exceptional lead-off hitter for the Wichita Wingnuts this season, but Friday night he showed he can lead the club’s comeback, enabling the team to rally to win. That is what happened on this evening, as the Wingnuts fell behind by two runs early, then saw their center fielder rally the team to tie the game before they walked away with a 7-4 victory.
The Wingnuts scored first against Grand Prairie AirHogs starter Brett Wallach. Ray singled to begin the game and moved to second on a base hit by David Espinosa. Two batters later Joash Brodin singled to score Ray and it was 1-0 Wichita.
Ace Tim Brown struggled for the Wingnuts in the bottom of the first. Jamodrick McGruder doubled to begin the home half of the frame, and moved to third on a base hit by Ronnie Richardson. Zane Chavez followed by rifling a double into the gap to score both McGruder and Richardson, and the AirHogs had the 2-1 lead. Willie Cabrera sent Chavez home with a double of his own, and it was 3-1. Brown had given up 3 runs and 4 hits in the first frame, but his team was about to bail him out.
Down two the Wingnuts responded right away. Luis Hernandez singled with one out in the second, and moved to third on a line drive double by Harrison Kain. That brought Ray to the plate, who singled down the right field line, scoring both runners to tie the score.
In the top of the third the Wichita Wingnuts retook the lead. Starlin Rodriguez singled with one out and came home when Matt Padgett doubled. That was already the third double of the game for Wichita and all three led to runs.
In the fifth the Wingnuts extended their lead. Padgett walked with one out and, after moving to second on a ground out, came around to score on a Hernandez single to right field. That made the score 5-3.
It would be 7-4 after both teams scored runs in the sixth. In the top half of the frame the first two hitters struck out, but Mittelstaedt kept the inning alive by working the count full before drawing a walk. Joash Brodin singled, and both runners moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. Rodriguez then delivered a clutch single that scored both Mittelstaedt and Brodin to make it 7-3.
Following the three runs in the first inning, Brown looked like his normal outstanding self. The right-hander allowed two hits and a walk over the next three innings, as the AirHogs seemed stymied by his stuff. In the sixth they did find a small answer, as Ridge Hoopi-Haslam singled home Cabrera to make it a three-run game, but that is as close as they would get.
Brown (6-1) went 6 innings, allowing 9 hits, 2 hits and 4 runs, while striking out 4. Of his 92 pitches, 56 went for strikes.
The Wichita Wingnuts bullpen took over from there and continued the dominant manner in which they have been performing lately. Al Yevoli pitched a scoreless seventh, and Frankie Reed had a perfect eighth. Dakota Watts closed out the ninth by striking out the side for his fourth save of the season.
Ray finished the night 3-5 with a run and 2 RBI. Espinosa, Brodin, Rodriguez and Hernandez each had 2 hits. Rodriguez drove in two as well.
By Robert Pannier