Record Night for Jon Link as Wingnuts Hang on for 9-7 Win
Monday night it looked like the Wichita Wingnuts had built up a large enough lead to rest comfortably, but the Laredo Lemurs showed no quit in them, scoring four in the ninth before finally falling 9-7. The win gave Wingnuts starter Jon Link his fifth straight victory, another impressive outing that is proving that his early season woes were simply an aberration. The victory is his 28th as a Wichita Wingnuts pitcher, giving him the most wins in franchise history.
The Wingnuts staked their starter to an early lead when they scored two runs in the top of the first against Kyle DeVore. A single by Christian Stringer got the inning going and he stole second with one out. A strikeout would mean that there was a runner in scoring position with two outs, and Wichita needed a big hit. T.J. Mittelstaedt provided just that, drilling a DeVore offering over the fence and into the Texas night for his fifth homer of the season.
In the top of the fifth the Wingnuts extended their lead. Stringer got the rally started again, walking with one out. Zack Cox followed with a double to move Stringer to third and Brent Clevlen reached on an error that scored Stringer. After a walk to Mittelstaedt, Luis De La Cruz relieved and promptly gave up a two-run single to Martin Medina to increase the score to 5-0.
Link had cruised through the first four innings, and looked like he would continue to do so in the fifth, but a one-out single by Leandro Castro was followed by back-to-back errors that loaded the bases. Zane Chavez plated two of the runners with a two-run single to right, and Abel Nieves brought the final run of the inning home on a single to right as well. That made the score 5-3.
The Wingnuts scored single runs in each of the next two innings. Christian Stringer’s single in the sixth brought Richard Prigatano across home plate to extend the lead back to three. In the seventh Dustin Geiger hit a sacrifice fly that scored Clevlen to make it a 7-3 game.
In the top of the eighth, Wichita added two more insurance runs. Leo Vargas started the inning with a single and stole second, his 11th stolen base of the season. Cox brought him home with a ground rule double and he scored when Medina grounded out with the bases loaded. That made it 9-3.
Link (5-2) was done after 7-innings, and the game looked well in hand. The right-hander allowed 7-hits and 2-walks. All 3-runs scored against him were unearned. He struck out 3.
The game looked well in hand, but the Lemurs were not going down without a fight. In the bottom of the ninth Fabian Roman took over the Wingnuts and he found himself in a bit of trouble because of his defense. An error allowed Alvaro Rondon to reach to start the inning and he was replaced on the base paths on a fielder’s choice by Castro. Drew Martinez singled and Cesar Valera walked to load the bases, and there was just one out. A walk to Dennis Phipps scored Castro to make it a five-run game. Zane Chavez then reached on a fielder’s choice that scored Martinez and Valera scored on an error, the fourth committed by the Wingnuts.
Frankie Reed entered the game looking to stop the bleeding. He walked Ty Morrison to reload the bases, and then hit J.D. Pulfer to drive in the fourth run of the inning, but he recorded the final out for his fifth save of the season.
The top four batters were the key to the Wichita Wingnuts offense on this night. They were a combined 5-15 with 7-runs scored and 5-RBI. Medina drove in 3. Laredo got 3-RBI from Chavez and Martinez was 2-4 with 2-runs scored.
Game 2 of the series is tomorrow night at 7:05. Alex Boshers (2-2, 4.15) goes for his third straight win.
By Robert Pannier