Wichita Wingnuts Repeat the Lecture of Response: Wingnuts Wire
Philosopher George Santayana once famously wrote that if we do not learn from history we are doomed to repeat it. It is a brilliant piece of knowledge that Witcha Wingnuts opponents do not seem to understand, but which the team is glad to continually lecture on over and over again as this season has gone along. At Wingnuts U. the Wichita Wingnuts repeatedly lecture on one lesson more than any other: The Art of the Response.
The Art of the Response is a simple enough lesson to learn. A team scores against you, so in the very next time you are up to bat you respond back with runs of your own. It is not only a great way to keep your team in games, it also is a great way to demoralize opponents. Opposing teams learn that no lead is safe, and they do not get any time to bask in the enjoyment of scoring runs before they watch your team put runs right back onto the board.
This is a lesson that the Wichita Wingnuts have repeatedly taught to opponents all season long. Whether they are Lemurs, Saltdogs, Explorers or even AirHogs, all the teams in the American Association have learned the value of this lesson from the masters of the response. For the AirHogs they may have seen it before, but they got a refresher on the lesson Tuesday night – twice.
Newcomer Celson Polanco made his first start of the season for Wichita after being acquired on Monday. The right-hander was cruising along, even striking out five in a row at one point, but in the third he found himself in some trouble. Ryan Gasporra and Eric Baker, the No. eight and nine hitters, singled to lead-off the inning. It looked like Polanco was going to get out of the inning completely unscathed when a couple of fundamental mistakes cost the AirHogs. Alex Nunez attempted to bunt both runners into scoring position, but Wingnuts catcher Chris McMurray pounced out from behind the plate and threw out Gasporra at third, to keep runners at first and second. With Brian Peterson batting, Baker attempted to move to third on a pitch that got away from McMurray, but the catcher threw a laser to third baseman Chris McClendon to gun down Baker and there were now two outs. Polanco looked like he was going to walk away from the inning with a scoreless tie, but that was not meant to be. Peterson singled, and then Jason Botts followed with a double that scored Nunez, and the AirHogs had the lead 1-0.
Time for lesson 1. The very next at-bat for Wichita Victor Diaz led off striking out, but Abel Nieves reached on a walk and Carlo Testa followed with a single, one of his three hits on the night for Testa. McMurray followed with another single, and the bases were loaded. It looked like Grand Prairie starter Ryan Searle was about to learn a large lesson on how quickly the Wingnuts can score, but then he got the break he was looking for. McClendon hit a ball to Nunez that had double-play written all over it. Nunez fired to shortstop Miguel Castano for the first out, but Castano’s throw to first sailed out of play allowing both Nieves and Testa to score. Just like that a sure double-play turned into two runs, and the Wingnuts responded to Grand Prairie’s run in the previous inning.
In the sixth the AirHogs took the lead again. Back-to-back singles put runners at first and second with no one out. Matthew Burns then sacrificed both runners into scoring position, and Frazier Hall followed with a ground out to second, scoring Botts and tying the game. Castano then made up for his earlier error by singling to score Myrow to give the AirHogs the 3-2 lead.
Time for Lesson 2. With two outs Jared McDonald singled and he came all the way around to score when David Espinosa tripled to the wall tying the game. Once again Wichita responded right back to being scored upon, and once again the excitement of taking the lead was snatched away from Grand Prairie.
The game would remain tied through regulation. Both teams had the chance to take the lead, but neither got the clutch hit to take back the lead. The Wingnuts had a runner on third with one out in the eighth, but could not drive him home. The same was true for Grand Prairie in the bottom half of the inning, and they too could not drive home a runner from third with just one out. Missed opportunities took their toll, and forced the game into extra innings. That is where Wichita finally took the lead for good.
Diaz and Nieves singled to lead-off the inning. Testa followed with a strike out, but McMurray delivered with a deep fly ball to right field that scored Diaz, and gave the Wingnuts the 4-3 lead.
With their first lead of the game, the Wingnuts sent closer Dan Sattler to the mound to close the deal. After walking the first batter of the inning, the closer struck out the next two hitters before retiring Castano on a fly ball. For Sattler it was his second straight save with the Wingnuts and 21st of the season. Mike Zouzalik got the win moving his record to 4-0. Nieves and Testa both had three hits for the Wingnuts.
The win was the 68th victory of the season for Wichita, which is a new American Association record. The Wingnuts set the record last year, but topped it in just one season, and now are shooting for the first 70-win season in American Association history. They will have their chance to complete the four-game sweep of Grand Prairie Wednesday night when 10-game winner Tim Brown faces Danny Gutierrez.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Baseball Editor
Member of the IBWAA