Wichita Wingnuts Earn an “E” in Blasters Double-Header Sweep
A tumultuous day for the Wichita Wingnuts ended with a tough day on the ball field, as the club lost both games of a double-header to the Joplin Blasters. Being swept might have been a lot more palatable, but two errors in Game 1 followed by four in Game 2 played pivotal roles in the losses, and moved the Blasters back into first in the South Division of the American Association.
Prior to the game beginning, the Wichita Wingnuts saw two key members of their organization leave to sign somewhere else. Alberto Gonzalez signed with the Detroit Tigers organization, and closer Matt Nevarez left to go play in Mexico, joining Anthony Capra on Acereros de Monclova. With Capra leaving on Monday and Scott Shuman being released the Wingnuts had four roster spots to fill.
Former Toronto Blue Jays starter Scott Richmond took the hill for Game 1. The right-hander pitched well, but some defensive lapses and the pitcher he was squared off against cost him a chance at the win in this one.
Nestor Molina was the starter for Joplin, and he pitched a gem. He kept the Wichita Wingnuts bats silent, for the most part, through the first six innings, not allowing a run. The right-hander allowed just 3 hits, a walk and 2 hit by pitches through his first six innings of work. Two players were caught stealing and a double-play aided in the Wingnuts inability to get any real going.
The Joplin Blasters took the lead in the top of the third inning. Jake Taylor led off with a single and moved to second on successful sacrifice by Jesus Solorzano. Two batters later Maikol Gonzalez lined a single into center field to drive home Taylor to make it 1-0.
In the fifth inning the visitors plated two more runs, benefiting from two Wingnuts errors. Taylor began this rally as well, singling to begin the frame. Solorzano bunted right back to Richmond, who turned and fired to short to cut the lead runner, but the shortstop misplayed the throw allowing both runners to get into scoring position. Jayce Ray fielded the ball in center and inexplicitly threw it in between third and home, but no one was standing there and Taylor came into score. Solorzano scored on a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0. Later in the inning, Mitch Glasser singled and scored on double by Oscar Mesa to stake the team to a four-run lead.
In the bottom of the seventh the Wichita Wingnuts were finally able to get on the board. Matt Padgett singled with one out and moved to third on a double by Brent Dean. Ray followed with a single that scored both runners, cutting the deficit to two. Winston Abreu took over for Joplin and retired the final two hitters for his sixth save of the year.
Molina (3-1) pitched a real gem. He went 6.1 innings, allowing just 5 hits, a walk and 2 earned runs. He also struck out 4. The Joplin starter won his third straight decision. Richmond (0-1) was the tough luck loser. He allowed 5 hits and 4 runs, 1 earned, in 5 innings pitched. Alex Boshers, who was officially signed earlier in the day, pitched an inning of relief, allowing just one hit.
Boxscore Provided by the American Association
In Game 2 it was a comedy of errors that cost the club a chance at a victory. However, the club showed that patented Wingnuts perseverance, falling behind 6-0 before plating four. It was a nice comeback that came up a little short, as the Wichita Wingnuts fell 6-4.
Daniel Bennett came out of the bullpen to start the second game. Gonzalez led off the game by reaching on an error. Glasser followed with a single that moved Gonzalez to second, and Mesa reached on an error by the catcher. Gonzalez was picked off by Bennett, but Yenier Bello was hit by a Bennett pitch to reload the bases. Carlos Ramirez hit into a fielder’s choice that scored Glasser and it was 1-0 Joplin.
In the fourth the Blasters added three more runs, and it was a huge error that was a key to inning. Taylor singled to begin the inning and moved to second on a single by Steven Tinoco. Solorzano was hit by a pitch to load the bases. That brought Gonzalez to the plate, who grounded right back to Bennett. The pitcher fired home to gun down Taylor, but Brent Dean’s throw to first was wild, going all the way into the right field corner and allowing all three runners to score on the error. That made it 4-0.
In the fifth the error raised its ugly head again. Ramirez reached on an error by the second baseman, and Omar Luna followed with a single. Taylor bunted, moving both runners up 90-feet, and two batters later Solorzano doubled to score both. That made it 6-0 and, sadly, none of the runs were earned.
It had looked quite ugly for the Wingnuts for most of this game, but there is no quit in a Kevin Hooper team. Jayce Ray singled to lead off the bottom of the fifth and moved to second on a single by Taylor Oldham. T.J. Mittelstaedt walked to load the bases and, after David Espinosa struck out, Joash Brodin walked to bring in a run.
That would be it for Sam Agnew-Wieland. Jacob Negrete came in and closed out the inning to maintain the five-run lead.
In the bottom of the sixth Matt Padgett hit his second home run of the season to begin the frame. The Wingnuts would not drive home any others in the inning, but there was starting to get that feeling like the club was getting something going.
In the bottom of the seventh, trailing by four, the Wichita Wingnuts made the game quite exciting. Mittelstaedt walked and three batters later Dustin Geiger doubled bringing in Mittelstaedt. A base hit by Padgett plated Geiger and it was a two-run game. Manager Carlos Lezcano had seen enough. He brought in Victor Capellan, who closed out the game for his first save of the season.
Daniel Bennett (0-3) took the loss. He pitched well, but the errors crushed out his chances for the win. Padgett was 2-4 with a run and 2 RBI. Geiger also had 2 hits, scored a run and drove in another.
Solorzano had 2 RBI and a run scored for Joplin. Tinoco had two hits.
Boxscore Provided by the American Association
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By Robert Pannier