Lincoln Saltdogs Win See-Saw Battle Over Wichita Wingnuts, 7-6
It’s hard to call a team with a .650 winning percentage “struggling,” but the high standards the Wichita Wingnuts have generated make this seem like a disappointment of sorts. This is especially true considering the pitching staff is struggling of late, including Friday’s 7-6 loss to the Lincoln Saltdogs.
In the club’s previous home stand they allowed just seven runs in six games. They gave up that many runs in tonight’s game alone. Five games into the seven-game stretch at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium they have yielded 30 runs, a number that pitching coach Luke Robertson cannot be the least bit happy about.
Scott Kuzminsky had five innings of shutout ball in his last start, but he would struggle coming out of the gate. In the top of the first Eddie Young singled to begin the inning and moved to second on a ground out. Two batters later CJ Ziegler singled, sending Young across the plate to make it 1-0.
The Wichita Wingnuts would take the lead in the bottom of the second against Moises Melendez. TJ Mittelstaedt walked to lead-off the inning and moved to second on a base hit by John Nester. Dustin Geiger followed with a single of his own, scoring Mittelstaedt. A perfect sacrifice bunt by Luis Hernandez moved the two runners into scoring position, and Jayce Ray followed with a ground out that scored Nester. Following a walk to Alberto Gonzalez, David Espinosa plated Geiger to make it 3-1.
In the top of the third the Lincoln Saltdogs responded with two runs to tie the game. Mitch Canham, who entered the game leading the American Association in hitting, doubled with two outs, and scored when Jon Gaston took a 2-2 pitch from Kuzminsky and drilled it for a two-run homer. It was Gaston’s sixth home run of the season making him the American Association leader in that category.
In the top of the fifth the Lincoln Saltdogs retook the lead. Eddie Young led off with a walk and moved to second on a single by Canham. Gaston grounded into a fielder’s choice, putting runners at the corners with one out. Ziegler followed by grounding one back to the mound but Kuzminsky booted it and Young scored.
Down 4-3, the Wichita Wingnuts responded right away in the bottom half of the inning. Espinosa walked to start the bottom of the fifth and two batters later Joash Brodin drew a walk as well. Mittelstaedt followed the walk with a single that scored Espinosa. That would be it for Melendez, Conor Spink took over and gave up a single to Nester that scored Brodin before retiring the side.
Trailing 5-4, the Lincoln Saltdogs tied the game in the top of the seventh. Al Yevoli relieved Kuzminsky. Eddie Young worked the count full before doubling to lead off the seventh. Canham singled to score Young and the game was tied.
Daniel Bennett started the eighth for the Wichita Wingnuts. Matt Forgatch reached on an error to begin the inning and moved to second on a single two batters later. Daniel Carela relieved but could not stop the rally. A fielder’ choice put runners at first and third. Canham then grounded back to Carela who threw wildly, allowing Forgatch to score. Two batters later Ziegler came up with another clutch hit to score Ryan Lashley and give the Lincoln Saltdogs their first two run lead of the night.
Sean Keeler came on in the bottom of the eighth, and Wingnuts would cut that lead in half. Geiger’s lead-off single got the inning going, and he moved to second when Hernandez walked. A base hit by Ray loaded the bases, bringing Gonzalez to the plate. He hit a sacrifice fly that scored Geiger to make it 7-6. The inning had all the makings of a huge one for Wichita, but Ray was picked off first by Keeler before the Lincoln reliever retired Espinosa to end the inning.
In the ninth Zach Arneson took over. He retired the Wingnuts in order to preserve the lead and give the Lincoln Saltdogs the 7-6 victory.
Spink (1-1) earned the victory with 2.2 innings of scoreless relief. Arneson earned his third save of the season. Bennett (0-1) took the loss.
Canham went 3-4 to raise his league leading average to .482. Ziegler went 4-5 with 2 RBI. Geiger was 2-2 with 2 runs, 2 walks and an RBI for Wichita.
By Robert Pannier