Professor Jon Link Lectures on the Wichita Wingnuts Way of Dominance
For those who heard the collective palms of all the batters in the American Association banging against their foreheads in disbelief, their plight is understandable. Jon Link is back with the Wichita Wingnuts, and for the third straight start Professor Link provided a tantalizing lesson on the Wichita Wingnuts way, specifically on how to crush the hopes of an opponent before they can really start dreaming.
The opponent on this night was the Grand Prairie AirHogs, who scored a run in the first inning, then watched the right-hander dominate them over the next five innings, before giving way to a bullpen that continued the lesson. Seven late runs ended any chance that Grand Prairie had of coming back as the Wingnuts won 9-1.
Both teams got on the scoreboard in the first inning. Bennett Whitmore started for the AirHogs and he was greeted quite rudely by David Espinosa early on. Whitmore retired Jayce Ray to begin the game, but on a 1-0 pitch Espinosa blasted his second home run of the season to give his team the early 1-0 lead.
The Grand Prairie AirHogs got the run back in the bottom half of the inning on a home run of their own. Link retired the first two batters, but went 3-o on Brian Myrow. Link got two quick called strikes to make the count full, but Myrow fouled off two pitches to stay alive. On the eighth pitch of the at-bat the AirHogs DH hit his second home run of the season to tie the score.
The game did not remain tied for long as the long ball came back into play in the top of the second. Again, Whitmore retired the first hitter of the inning, but John Nester deposited a 1-1 offering from the Grand Prairie starter over the wall for his third home run of the season. The Wichita Wingnuts had the lead and they would not relinquish it.
Following the two early home runs, Whitmore pitched a gem. He held the Wingnuts scoreless over the next five innings to give his team a chance to battle back and tie the score.
Unfortunately for Grand Prairie, Professor Link was in his usual awesome form. The right-hander allowed a lead-off single in the second, then retired the next 12 hitters in a row. His streak came to an end on a lead-off error in the sixth, but he mowed down the final three hitters of the sixth to end any threat. Link (3-0) was pulled after 6 innings. He allowed just 2 hits and 1 earned run while striking out 9. It was an absolutely awesome performance that now gives him 11 straight wins dating back to last season.
From there it was time for the bullpen to do their job. They have been on fire of late, especially Daniel Bennett, who retired the AirHogs in order in the seventh. Alex Boshers and Scott Kuzminsky each pitched a scoreless inning to close out the game.
The ability of the relievers to just throw strikes was aided by a huge rally late that put the game away. In the top of the eighth Zachary Dando took over for Whitmore and he was shelled. Dando walked Espinosa to lead off the inning and then gave up a base hit to Mittelstaedt. An error moved Espinosa to third and two batters later Matt Padgett was intentionally walked to load the bases. John Nester then drew a walk to drive home Espinosa to make it 3-1. Next up was Harrison Kain, whose sharp single moved everyone up 90-feet, scoring Mittelstaedt. Luis Hernandez followed with a bases clearing double and in the span of about 20 minutes the game went from a one-run to a six-run game.
In the top of the ninth the Wichita Wingnuts plated two more. Joash Brodin’s single scored Espinosa, who had walked to begin the inning. Kain doubled to score Mittelstaedt with the game’s final run.
Espinosa continues to be an on-base machine, going 1-3 with 2 walks, 3 runs scored and an RBI. He is second in the American Association in walks and has an on-base percentage of .423. Kain was 3-4 with a run and 2 RBI.
The victory moves the Wichita Wingnuts back to their normal position as leaders in the South Division. They are a game ahead of Joplin.
By Robert Pannier