Jon Link Broils T-Bones, Wingnuts Power to 9-0 Victory
It started out as a tough 2016 American Association season for Wichita Wingnuts starter Jon Link. He was hit hard in his first two starts of the season, but the big right-hander is back on track, winning his last three decisions to pull within one of becoming Wichita’s all-time wins leader. Wednesday morning, he dominated the Kansas City T-Bones through seven innings as his team benefited from two huge homeruns in a 9-0 victory.
Casey Barnes started for Kansas City and was filleted for five runs before Link would even take the mound. It was the extra base hit that would be his undoing. Tyler Urps was retired to start the game, but Christian Stringer followed with a ball down the right field line that he legged out for a triple. Next up was Zack Cox who lined a double into left-center that easily scored Stringer to make it 1-0. T. J. Mittelstaedt followed with a double of his own down the right field line to score Cox. Next up was Dustin Geiger who drilled a homerun over the left-center field wall to make the score 4-0. The two-run shot was Geiger’s second of the season. Brennen Salgado singled and would eventually score on a ground out by Brent Dean to make it 5-0.
Staked to the huge lead, Link cruised. He gave up back-to-back hits in the first inning when there was one out, but then struck out the very dangerous Anthony Gallas before getting Jake Blackwood to fly out to end the inning.
He allowed lone hits in the second and third and two to start out the fourth, but then the Wingnuts starter got into a rhythm. With runners on first and second in the fourth, he got a strikeout, a foul pop for an out, and a grounder right back to him to end the inning. Those three outs started a run 12 straight hitters retired by the righty. He was absolutely spectacular.
Link (3-2) would be done after 7, allowing 6-hits and no walks, while striking out 6. Of his 97 pitches an amazing 70 went for strikes. It was truly an amazing start.
Meanwhile Barnes would get into trouble again in the third inning. He retired the first hitter of the inning before hitting Salgado. Richard Prigatano then singled into right and Brent Dean followed with his first homerun of the season to make it an 8-0 game.
That would be all for Barnes. He would finish out the third, but Jeremy Strawn would replace him in the fourth and was absolutely spectacular. The right-hander pitched five innings, allowing no hits and just 2-walks, while striking out 3.
The Wingnuts would add one more run in the ninth. Stringer singled to start the inning and MIttelstaedt walked two batters later. Two batters later Salgado grounded a ball down the first base line that hit off the bag and rolled for a double. Stringer scored for the ninth and final run of the game.
Jesse Pratt pitched a perfect eighth inning for Wichita. Chad Nading came in for the ninth inning and, after walking the first batter of the inning, struck out the side to end the game.
Stringer finished 2-5 with 2-runs and Dean drove in 4. Geiger drove in 2, and Vargas had a single to extend his hitting streak to six.
This was the first series victory for the Wingnuts this season, and also gave them their first series sweep. This moved their record to 9-11.
The Kansas City T-Bones are off tomorrow before welcoming the Joplin Blasters Friday night. The Wichita Wingnuts head south to take on the Texas Airhogs in a four-game series that starts Thursday night.
By Robert Pannier