Lemurs Bullpen Leads Club to 7-6 Victory Over Wichita Wingnuts
In what became a battle of bullpens, the Laredo Lemurs got the better performance from their relievers and scored two runs late to defeat the Wichita Wingnuts 7-6. The victory moved the Lemurs to within six games of Wichita and left the Wingnuts magic number at eight.
This looked like the Laredo Lemurs might get swept in this series as ace Jon Link took the hill for the Wingnuts. However, the Lemurs jumped out with three runs in the first to grab the lead. Ty Morrison walked to begin the game and two batters later Kevin Taylor doubled into right field to put runners at second and third with one out. Denis Phipps followed by working the count full before drawing a walk. Link struck out Travis Denker but J.D. Pulfer delivered a huge clutch hit to the wall in right field that cleared the bases to make it 3-0.
It was an outstanding beginning for the visitors, but Willy Paredes could not hold the lead. He retired the first hitter in the bottom half of the inning, but then walked the next three hitters (Jayce Ray, David Espinosa and Adam LaRoche) to load the bases with one out. T.J. Mittelstaedt followed with a single that scored Ray, but a nice throw from Phipps nailed Espinosa at the plate to keep it a two-run game. Harrison Kain then walked to reload the bases and Brent Dean made it a one run game with a clutch single that scored LaRoche. Next up was Taylor Smart, who grounded to third with what should have been the third out of the inning, but it was misplayed allowing Mittelstaedt to score to tie the game.
It was an incredibly draining first inning that took nearly one hour to complete and had the two teams back where they begun the game – tied. It remained 3-3 into the third when Laredo would retake the lead. Link walked Abel Nieves and Taylor to start the inning and two batters later Denker hit a sacrifice fly that scored Nieves to make it 4-3.
Once again the Wingnuts responded in the home half of the inning. Mittelstaedt and Harrison Kain drew walks to begin the inning, and Dean laid down a perfect bunt to move both runners into scoring position with one out. Two batters later Leo Vargas walked to load the bases, and Nick Van Stratten followed with a single that scored both Kain and Smart. Ray walked to reload that bases and that would be it for Paredes.
The Lemurs starter lasted just 2.2 innings, allowing 3 hits and 5 runs, 4 of which were earned. He set an American Association record by walking 9 batters.
Ryan Beckman came on to close out the inning without any further damage occurring, but the Wichita had their first lead of the game.
Neither team could score in the fourth, but in the fifth the Lemurs tied it up. Nieves singled to get the inning started, but Taylor hit into a double-play to empty the bases. Phipps kept the inning alive however, singling into right field. After Phipps stole second, Denker reached on an error that scored the runner and the game was tied.
The bullpens did their jobs over the next two innings, but in the eighth Laredo would regain the lead for good. Juan Silverio reached on an error and moved to second on a single by Phil Pohl. Morrison then grounded a ball down the left field line for a double that scored Silverio to make it 6-5.
In the bottom of the eighth Wichita looked to get the run right back but John Brebbia wiggled out of a huge jam like Houdini. LaRoche was hit by a pitch to begin the inning. Mittelstaedt singled and Kain attempted to lay down a sacrifice bunt, but instead beat it out to load the bases with no one out. Brebbia then struck out the side to end the threat, allowing no runs, and keeping his team on top. It was truly nothing short of spectacular.
In the ninth Denker came through with a huge insurance run that wound up being the difference in the game. Paul Smyth was on for the Wingnuts and he retired the first two hitters on strike outs, but Denker took an 0-1 pitch and homered just inside the foul pole in right to make it 7-5. It was Denker’s second home run of the season.
In the bottom of the ninth Brebbia retired the first two hitters, but David Espinosa made it a close game, fighting off three 1-2 pitches to stay alive, and then ripping a pitch over the right field wall for a home run. It was his fourth of the season. The Wingnuts needed just one run to tie, but Brebbia retired the final batter to end the game.
The Laredo Lemurs bullpen were the stars of the game. Beckman, B.J. Hyatt, and Brebbia pitched 6.1 innings, allowed 5 hits and just one run. They combined to strike out 7, 5 of which Brebbia retired on strikes.
Despite allowing a total of 12 walks, a new league record, the Lemurs pulled out a much needed win and remain atop the Wild Card standings, one game ahead of the Joplin Blasters.
By Robert Pannier