T.J. Mittelstaedt Completes Wichita Wingnuts Comeback with Walk-Off Homer
Sunday night had been a tough loss for the Wichita Wingnuts, as the Sioux Falls Canaries were being shutout for seven innings. They rallied for five in the eighth and won 5-2 to dampen the outstanding start by Alex Koronis.
On Monday night it was time for a little payback. The Wingnuts trailed 3-0 early, but rallied to win the game in extra innings. Trailing 3-2 in the ninth, Wichita got a run to tie it, then won on a walk-off two-run homer by T.J. Mittelstaedt for the 5-3 victory. It showed that two can play the late inning rally game.
Sioux Falls got on the scoreboard first, plating a run in the game’s first frame. Chris Grayson began the inning with a triple off of the Wingnuts Omar Bencomo, and scored when Jerome Pena followed with a base hit.
In the fourth the Canaries added two more. Bencomo struck out the first two hitters of the inning, then gave up a double to Tyler Shover. Michael Broad followed with a triple that scored Shover, and he came home on a single by Luce. That made it 3-0.
Miguel Pena had pitched brilliantly through the first four innings, seemingly getting stronger as the game went along. He allowed a hit and walk in the first, then allowed a single in the second, a single in the third that was erased on a double-play, and in the fourth he retired the side in order. The lefty was looking extremely good as the game went along.
In the fifth the Wichita Wingnuts finally got to the Canaries starter. John Nester led off the inning with a ground rule double and moved to third on a base hit by Luis Hernandez. Harrison Kain grounded into a fielder’s choice that took Hernandez off the base path, but scored Nester to make it 3-1.
In the sixth the Wingnuts pulled within a run. Stalin Rodriguez singled to begin the inning and moved to third on a Matt Padgett single. Joash Brodin grounded into a double-play, but Rodriguez scored to make it a one-run game.
After allowing the two runs in the fourth Bencomo looked very impressive. He stroke out five over his final four innings of work, including fanning the side in the fifth. He left after 8 innings, allowing 8 hits, a walk, and 3 earned runs, while striking out 9. He trailed by a run, however, and needed his team to rally.
It didn’t look like that would happen, as Pena and James Jones kept the home club off the board in the seventh and eighth innings, and closer Chase Johnson, a former Wingnuts pitcher, came on in the ninth to finish it off. Wichita had other plans.
Brodin singled to start the inning, and promptly stole second, his eighth stolen base of the season. Nester’s ground out moved Brodin to third, and Hernandez drove him home with a ground out to tie the game at three.
In the tenth the Wichita Wingnuts turned to Dakota Watts. He gave up a two-out single, but retired the side without giving up a run. That set up his team to have a chance to win it in the 10th.
Will Rankin relieved for Sioux Falls, and got Jayce Ray to pop out to the pitcher to begin the bottom half of the inning. Espinosa followed with a single and, on a 2-1 pitch, Mittelstaedt blasted his team leading ninth home run of the season to win the game for the Wichita Wingnuts. The home run moved Mittelstaedt into a tie for fourth in both home runs and RBI in the American Association.
Watts moved to 4-0 on the season, while Rankin dropped to 1-1. Espinosa continues to be an on-base machine, going 2-4 with a walk and a run. Hernandez added two hits and an RBI.
By Robert Pannier