T.J. Mittelstaedt Leads Wichita Wingnuts to Comeback Victory, 7-5
With just a few short weeks left in the American Association season every game takes on added significance, especially against division rivals. Saturday night was one of those games where the team who is second in the South Division, the Laredo Lemurs, looked to make up a game on the division leading Wichita Wingnuts. It looked good early for the Texas team, but T.J. Mittelstaedt led a comeback that gave the home team a 7-5 victory, increasing their division lead to seven games and reducing the Wingnuts magic number to just eight.
The game got off on the right foot for the Wingnuts against Laredo Lemurs starter Cody Kendall. Newcomer Nick Van Stratten singled to center to begin the bottom of the first, then stole second and moved to third on a sacrifice by Jayce Ray. Two batters later Andy LaRoche singled to drive home Van Stratten and it was 1-0.
Eddie Medina started for the Wingnuts. He had been absolutely dominant since joining the team, but a few defenses lapses cost him some runs on this day. It started in the top of the third when Travis Denker led off the inning by reaching on an error. Denis Phipps followed by drawing a walk and both runners moved into scoring position on a perfect sacrifice by Kevin Taylor. Two batters later both runs would score when Juan Silverio singled. The inning did not end there however. Drew Martinez singled to keep it alive and J.D. Pulfer followed with a single to center. Silverio came home to score to make it 3-1.
In the top of the third Laredo would add another run. Abel Nieves singled to center against his former team to start the inning and moved to second on a single by Denker. Phipps followed with a single that brought home Nieves, but the rally took a hit when Denker was thrown out trying to get to third. Through three it 4-1, and time for the Wingnuts to get a rally going.
That began in the bottom of the fourth. LaRoche doubled down the line in left to start the inning, bringing Mittelstaedt to the plate. He took a called first strike and then blasted his 12th home run of the season. That made it 4-3.
In the bottom of the sixth the Wichita Wingnuts took the lead. For the second time in three innings LaRoche led off an inning with a double and moved to third on a single by Mittelstaedt. Kendall uncorked a wild pitch that scored LaRoche, moving Mittelstaedt to second in the process. Nester then reached on an error that put him at second and moved the runner at second to third.
That would be it for Kendall. Luis De La Cruz came into relieve but he was unable to stop the bleeding. Harrison Kain’s sacrifice fly put the Wingnuts on top, and a sacrifice fly by Leo Vargas scored Nester to make it 6-4.
In the top of the eighth Taylor pulled Laredo back within one when he launched his seventh home run of the season. That made the score 6-5 and gave the Lemurs a glimmer of hope that they were going to make a comeback of their own.
That glimmer ended abruptly in the bottom half of the inning however. With Ryan Beckman on the hill for Laredo, T.J. Mittelstaedt led off the inning with his 13th homer of the season to put the Wichita Wingnuts back up by two.
In the ninth the Wingnuts turned to new closer Paul Smyth. Smyth retired Martinez on a line out and then got Pulfer to foul out. The Lemurs last chance was Ty Morrison, but Smyth struck him out on four pitches for his fourth save in as many chances.
Alex Boshers (2-2) earned the victory for the Wingnuts with three outstanding innings of relief. The right-hander allowed just two hits and a run in earning the win.
Three players had three hits in the game for Wichita. Mittelstaedt was 3-4 with 3 runs and 3 RBI to go along with his two home runs. LaRoche was also 3-4 with 2 runs scored and an RBI. Nester was 3-4 with a run scored.
By Robert Pannier