Wichita Wingnuts Clinch South Division; Down Joplin 8-3
It’s getting to be as commonplace as death and taxes. For the fifth straight season the Wichita Wingnuts claimed a division title, this time winning the South Division again after downing the Joplin Blasters, 8-3. That gave Wichita a 59-36 record, best in the American Association, making it impossible for the Laredo Lemurs to be able to catch the streaking Wingnuts.
The Wingnuts took the lead in the bottom of the second against Harrison Lee. Matt Chavez doubled with one out and he scored on a single by Nick Van Stratten. Van Stratten moved to second on the throw to the plate. Two batters later, Leo Vargas lined a single up the middle that scored Van Stratten and it was 2-0 Wichita.
In the top of the third Joplin got one of those runs back. Wichita starter Tyler Kane had been brilliant in the first two innings, and he started the third by striking out the first two hitters of the inning. However, back-to-back singles by Sergio Leon and Mitch Glasser kept the inning alive. Next up was Geraldo Valentin, who lined a single up the middle that scored Leon. Glasser attempted to go third, but then realized he better get back to second. The decision was too late, as he was nailed at second to end the inning.
In the fifth, the Joplin Blasters would tie the score. Conor Sullivan singled to get it started and moved to second when Alex Polston followed with a walk. Kane retired the next two batters, but a passed ball moved both runners into scoring position with Glasser at the plate. He then lined a base hit up the middle that scored Sullivan. Polston rounded third and headed for home and it looked like he would score, but an amazing throw by Kain nailed him at the plate to keep the score tied.
In the bottom half of the inning, the Wichita Wingnuts wasted no time retaking the lead. Martin Medina started the inning with a single and moved to second on a base hit by Vargas. A grounder by Christian Stringer moved both runners into scoring position. Zack Cox grounded out to score Medina and Brent Clevlen plated Vargas with a clutch two-out double. That made it 4-2.
In the bottom of the sixth Wichita added two more. Chavez led off the inning and drilled his 14th homer of the year to make it 5-2. Van Stratten and Kain followed with back-to-back singles. Medina then grounded into a fielder’s choice that put runners at the corners, and Van Stratten scored on a fielder’s choice by Vargas. That extended the lead to four.
In the seventh the Blasters would cut that deficit by one. Axel Johnson singled with one out and moved to second on a single by Leon. Glasser followed with a single to load the bases and a ground out by Valentin scored Johnson to make it 6-3.
Once again Wichita responded in the bottom half of the inning. Cox singled to start the inning, but Alberto Castillo retired the next two batters. That brought Chavez to the plate, who crushed his 15th homer of the season over the left-center field wall to make it 8-3. That would be the final score.
Kane (2-0) earned his second win since joining the Wingnuts, going 6-innings, allowing 7-hits, 2-walks, and 2-earned runs. He struck out 2.
Chavez was 3-4 with 3-runs scored and 3-RBI. In his last four-games he is 12-18, with 8-runs scored and 9-RBI. He also has homered four times in that span. Van Stratten also was 3-4 and scored two runs. Vargas was 2-4 with a run and 2-RBI for Wichita. Glasser was 3-5 with an RBI for Joplin.
The Wingnuts will go for the four-game sweep tomorrow night. Tim Brown (8-4, 4.28) will go for the Wichita Wingnuts against Santo Arias (2-1, 3.97). Game time is 7:05.
By Robert Pannier