Jon Link Returns to Lead Wichita Wingnuts to 3-1 Victory
It has been a tough last few weeks for the Wichita Wingnuts pitching staff. Jon Link was hurt and out, Omar Bencomo had his contract purchased, and manager Kevin Hooper was signing guys on the club’s most recent swing out east to give him a body to start games. Wednesday night Link returned and gave the Wingnuts five outstanding innings in leading his club to a 3-1 victory over the Grand Prairie AirHogs. The win enabled the club to extend their lead over Joplin back to three games.
The two teams combined for three quick runs through the first two frames. Link retired the side in order in the top of the first, but in the bottom of the first Wichita got a run against AirHogs starter Bennett Whitmore. The Grand Prairie starter retired the first two hitters, but T.J. Mittelstaedt cleared the fence with his 1oth home run of the season to make it 1-0.
The AirHogs got the run right back in the top of the second. Willie Cabrera doubled to get the inning stared, and Zane Chavez drew a walk to put two on with no one out. Two batters later Michael Pair doubled to score Cabrera to make it one a piece, and there were now two runners in scoring position with just one out. Time for Link to dig down deep, and he delivered a huge moment in the game, striking out both Jordy Hart and Miguel Castano to end the inning.
In the bottom of the second the Wichita Wingnuts responded as well. Harrison Kain reached first on a dropped third strike, but was cut down on a fielder’s choice by Brent Dean. That put a runner on first with two outs. Dean stole second for his eighth steal of the season, and scored when Taylor Smart lined a double into the gap. It was now 2-1.
From there both starters dominated. Link (5-0) left after 5 innings. He gave up 3 hits, 2 walks and a single run, while striking out 7. He would earn the victory to keep his record undefeated.
Hooper then turned to his bullpen to bring home the victory and they were outstanding. Alex Boshers took over in the sixth and pitched two perfect innings. Daniel Bennett pitched a perfect eighth, striking out two.
While the Wingnuts bullpen was rolling, Whitmore was pitching brilliantly as well. He kept Wichita off the scoreboard from the third through the sixth, keeping his team in the game. In the seventh he finally got tagged for a run. Jayce Ray got the rally started with a one out double. David Espinosa was the next hitter, and he singled to score Ray to make it 3-1.
In the ninth Paul Smyth made his Wingnuts debut. He retired the AirHogs in order for his first save in his first outing. It was a great start to his career in Wichita.
Jayce Ray went 2-4 with a run scored. Kain also was 2-4.
By Robert Pannier