Newcomer Joplin Blasters Down Champs, 5-2
It’s a tough start to a career when the very first team you face as an organization is the league champions, but that is the challenge the Joplin Blasters faced when they opened the season against the Wichita Wingnuts, the team that set a record with 73-wins and won the American Association championship. The Blasters didn’t seem fazed at all as they jumped out to a five-run lead before winning 5-2.
Wichita started Anthony Capra has battled arm troubles the last two seasons, but has incredible stuff when he is healthy. The lefty retired five of the first six hitters he faced, allowing only a single to Yasser Gomez, who was thrown out trying to steal two batters later.
In the third the Blasters jumped out on top. Jesus Solorzano singled with one out, and Juan Medina followed with a walk to put runners on first and second with one out. Maikol Gonzalez then had an at-bat for the ages, fouling off three two-strike pitches before doubling to score Solorzano. Capra walked Oscar Mesa to load the bases with just one out, but got a double-play to end the threat when Austin Gallagher flied out Jayce Ray, who made a great throw to the plate to nail Medina. That kept the score 1-o.
In the bottom of the fourth Joplin added to their lead. Gomez singled with one out, and scored with Carlos Ramirez followed with a double that scored Gomez all the way from first. Steven Tinoco followed with a double of his own, scoring Ramirez and staking Joplin to the 3-0 lead.
In the bottom of the fifth Maikol Gonzalez became the first Blasters player to hit a home run, leading off the inning with a shot that extended the lead to 4-0. One out later Gallagher doubled and scored on a single by Gomez.
The score was 5-0, and that was plenty enough to back the pitching of Jorge Martinez. The Joplin starter allowed just two hits and two walks in five innings of work. He did not allow a run and struck out four. The right-hander retired the first 10 hitters of the game.
Jake Meiers took over in the sixth and retired the side in order, but in the seventh the Wingnuts got a big hit from David Espinosa. Meiers retired the first out of the inning, then gave up a single to Dustin Geiger. Espinosa followed by taking a 2-0 pitch and drilling it over the left field fence to make it 5-2.
The score remained the same going into the ninth inning. Winston Abreu came on to close out the game for Joplin, and he showed that he is going to be a force in the backend of games for the Blasters. Abreu struck out the side in order, doing so in just 13 pitches.
Martinez (1-0) earned the first victory in Joplin Blasters franchise history, with Abreu recording the organization’s first save. Capra (0-1) took the loss. Gomez finished a perfect 4-4 with a run scored and an RBI. Ramirez added three hits. Brent Dean and Ray had two hits each for the Wingnuts.
These two teams will square off again tomorrow. Game time is 6:35 local time.
By Robert Pannier