Late Rally by Thunderheads Spoils Jon Link’s Gem, Wichita Wingnuts Fall 3-2
For six innings Jon Link dominated the Amarillo Thunderheads, but after he left the Wichita Wingnuts bullpen could not come through. The visitors rallied for three runs in the eighth inning to win 3-2, moving Laredo just two games behind Wichita in the South Division with three games left to play.
Link was opposed by former Wingnuts starter Alex Koronis, The Amarillo starter had been hit hard in his previous two starts, but on this night he pitched a gem.
Neither team was able to mount much offense through the first three frames. Link allowed a lone hit in the first three innings while Koronis allowed two runners to reach in the first and loaded the bases in the third before retiring the side to keep the game scoreless.
In the bottom of the fourth the Wichita Wingnuts finally broke out on top. John Nester drilled a triple to the wall to begin the inning and two batters later scored on a double by Leo Vargas. After stealing third, Taylor Smart delivered a sacrifice fly that scored Vargas and it was 2-0 Wingnuts.
The Wichita starter had found himself in trouble in the fourth as well, giving up a one out single to Stefan Gartrell and a two out walk to Ricardo Rodriguez, but he retired the dangerous Christian Ibarra to end the inning. In the fifth and sixth innings he cruised, striking out four of the last seven batters he faced. For the game Link went 6 innings, allowing just 2 hits and a walk, while striking out 6.
Dan Bennett relieved in the seventh and was equally as brilliant as Link. The right-hander pitched a perfect inning, striking out two.
In the eighth the Wingnuts turned to newcomer Derek Eitel, but he was not able to maintain the lead. After striking out Jordan Guida, Corey Bass singled. Eitel then struck out Juan Martinez, but Rene Leveret doubled, driving in Bass to make it 2-1. Next up was Gartrell, who turned on the first pitch he saw and drilled it for his 17th home run of the season. The two-run shot gave Amarillo their first lead, and they would not relinquish it.
Randy Hamrick (4-3) went the final 2.2 innings for Amarillo, allowing a lone walk, while striking out 5. He was absolutely dominant in earning the win.
No Wingnuts player had more than one hit on the evening. Brent Clevlen did have a hit in two trips to the plate and walked twice. Gartrell was 2-4 with a run and 2 RBI for the winnings Thunderheads.
By Robert Pannier