Wichita Wingnuts down Laredo Lemurs in Slugfest: Wingnuts Wire
When you bring the two highest scoring teams together on a Sunday night in the Texas heat you are bound to get some fireworks, and that is exactly what fans got. The Wingnuts staked themselves to a 9-2 lead, and then hung on for a 10-7 win. The victory gave the Wingnuts wins in three of the four games in the series.
In the top of the first, second baseman Abel Nieves singled to drive home Ryan Khoury and David Espinosa. Nieves has been on a tear since joining the Wingnuts, especially over the last five games where he has hit 13-20 (.650) with five runs and six RBI.
The Lemurs may have fallen behind, but they showed that they have some moxie, plating runs in the second and the third innings to tie the game. Byron Wiley’s double in the second cut the deficit in half, and Nick Van Stratten scored in the third to tie the game.
Wingnuts starter Frank Del Valle was looking for his first win of the season and his teammates did their best to make that happen. Wichita scored three in the fourth and four more in the fifth to take a 9-2 lead. In the fourth catcher Chris McMurray’s two-run homer put the Wingnuts on top to stay. It was the catcher’s sixth home run of the year and increased his RBI total to 55.
In the fifth, a pair of home runs added to the lead. Carlo Testa hit his 10th home run with one out in the inning to move the score to 8-2. Testa’s three-run jack moved his RBI total to 55 on the season. One out later Taylor Oldham hit his third home run of the year to make it 9-2. The super-sub has been a key contributor for the team this season, showing he can play all over the infield and add some pop to their lineup when called upon to do so. Oldham has hit .278 so far this season, with a .378 on-base percentage and 24 RBI in 133 at-bats.
Staked to a 9-2 Del Valle found himself in trouble in the sixth and eventually was replaced by Mike Zouzalik. Del Valle had been living on the edge for most of the evening, and it finally came back to haunt him. In the sixth he gave up two walks and a single to start the inning, and even threw a wild pitch that scored a run. The seven walks he yielded had been creating drama all game long, and manager Kevin Hooper had seen enough. Zouzalik relieved Del Valle, and after giving up a two-run single to Harrison Kain, he retired the final batter of the inning and preserved the lead at 9-5.
The Lemurs would pull a run closer in the seventh when Travis Denker hit his league leading 25th home run of the year to make it 9-6. Prior to the blast, Denker had been in a bit of a slump over the last eight games, going 5-26 with one home run.
Both teams would add a run in the ninth, but the outcome was clear. The Wingnuts finished with the 10-7 win, giving them a league leading 65 wins on the season. The victory also moved them 6.5 games ahead of Winnipeg for the best record in the league and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The magic number to secure that is now one.
Frank Del Valle finally got into the win column, moving his record to 1-1 in six starts. The lefty has struggled in his last two outings, but he kept his team in the game early on, allowing them to get to the Lemurs and gain the victory.
Wichita now travels to Grand Prairie for a double-header against the AirHogs tonight. Anthony Capra and Luke Robertson will start the two games for the Wingnuts.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Baseball Editor
Member of the IBWAA