Padgett, Dean Lead Wichita Wingnuts 16-8 Pounding of Blasters
To say that the Wichita Wingnuts were struggling is like saying a dog likes to bark. With six losses in their last eight games, including three straight to the Joplin Blasters, manager Kevin Hooper was looking to shake up his lineup and get the team back in the win column. After a 16-run barrage it might be safe to conclude that the club is headed back in the right direction.
The success of the club early this season has earned the attention of several other clubs, especially south of the border. Antony Capra, Alberto Gonzalez and Matt Nevarez all signed to play elsewhere, leaving a huge hole in this club’s roster. Hooper needed a big pick me up as he rebuilds his roster, and Matt Padgett and Brent Dean proved to be the biggest stars of all on this night.
The Wichita Wingnuts got it all started, plating three runs in the bottom of the first. Luis Hernandez doubled with one out, and David Espinosa walked. Matt Padgett was the next hitter. He had been struggling offensively since joining the Wingnuts, but he delivered on this night, doubling into right field to score Hernandez and Espinosa. Three batters later Taylor Oldham singled to drive Padgett home and it was 3-0.
It was a great start, but that changed quickly, as the Joplin Blasters scored two runs in each of the next four innings. It was the kind of troubling pattern that has become all too common recently for Wichita.
In the top of the second Jake Taylor singled with two outs and scored on a single by Gabe Suarez two batters later. Oscar Mesa drove home Jesus Solorazo, who had walked earlier in the inning, to cut the deficit to one.
In the top of the third the Blasters took the lead. Wingnuts starter Jason Van Skike retired the first two batters then hit Mitch Glasser. That brought Taylor to the plate, who crushed a Van Skike offering over the left field fence to make it 4-3.
In the top of the fourth the visitors extended that lead. Maikol Gonzalez started the frame with a single and scored when Oscar Mesa drove a Jason Van Skike pitch down into the right field corner for a triple. Two batters later Yenier Bello hit a sacrifice fly to score Mesa and give Joplin the 6-3 lead.
In the fifth two more runs would come home for Joplin. Glasser doubled to start the rally, and Solorzano moved him to third with a single two batters later. Suarez drove home Glasser with a sacrifice fly, and Gonzalez plated Solorzano with a double.
The game had quickly gotten out of hand. Wichita had scored three in the first, but had done nothing offensively against Jon Jones since then, and the crowd was beginning to believe that their beloved Wingnuts were about to lose their fourth straight contest. Down 8-3 it was easy to think so. Oh how quickly things change.
In the bottom of the fifth Espinosa walked and moved to third on a single by Padgett. Joash Brodin drew a walk and that would be it for Jones. Joplin manager Carlos Lezcano had seen enough, and replaced his starter with Jacob Negrete. It did not help.
T.J. Mittelstaedt was walked to bring home a run, and Taylor Oldham followed by grounding into a fielder’s choice that cut the lead runner at the plate. Next up was Brent Dean, who roped a Negrete offering down the line in left field. The ball rolled into the corner before Mesa was able to retrieve it. That brought all three runners into score, making it 8-7. Tyler Coughenour was the next hitter, and he grounded a ball to short. Dean decided to run on the play even though it was hit to the right side of the infield. This caught the shortstop off guard a bit. He rushed to try to get the ball up and into his hand to make the throw to third to get Dean but, instead, watched it kick off of his glove and into left field to tie the game.
There was new life in the Wichita Wingnuts dugout, and in the seventh they would find themselves back on top. Dean singled to get it going and moved to second on a sacrifice by Coughenour. Jayce Ray delivered a base hit into left field that brought Dean home and it was 9-8. A single by Hernandez moved Ray to second, and that was it for Negrete.
Victor Capellan took over for the Blasters and walked Espinosa to load the bases. It was the fourth time the Wingnuts first baseman had reached base, and he hadn’t made contact with the ball yet, well at least not with his bat. Espinosa had reached base four times, three times on walks and the other when he was hit by a pitch.
With the bases loaded Padgett worked the count full before drawing a walk himself to make it 10-8. Two batters later Mittelstaedt walked and it was a three-run Wichita lead.
In the bottom of the eighth the home team blew it open. For the second straight inning Dean singled to begin the frame, and Coughenour moved Dean to third with a single of his own. Ray walked to load the bases, and Hernandez followed with a single that scored both Dean and Coughenour. Espinosa brought home the third run of the inning with a single and Padgett followed with the club’s third straight hit, scoring Hernandez. Two batters later Mittelstaedt singled to make it 16-8, as Espinosa came in to score.
While the production was just what the doctor ordered for the Wingnuts offensive struggles, it was the relief work of Alex Boshers (1-0) that made the difference. The right-hander entered the game in the bottom of the fifth with his team hurting. They had given up eight runs in four innings, and it looked like they were going to lose their fourth straight. Boshers shut the Blasters down, giving up just one hit in his 2.1 innings of work to earn the victory.
After the game several players echoed the sentiments of their manager. This was a game that the team “needed,” and the feeling was that this may have even been viewed as a must-win game.
Several players had big nights for the Wichita Wingnuts. Padgett was 3-5 with a run and 4 RBI. He also drew a walk. Dean was 3-4 with 3 runs, 3 RBI and 2 walks. Hernandez had 3 hits as well, scored 3 runs and drove in 1. Espinosa also had an amazing night, getting only 1 hit, but walking 4 times, scoring three runs, and getting on base all six times he appeared at the plate. It was a thorough win that moved the club two games behind Joplin in the South Division of the American Association.
By Robert Pannier