Wichita Wingnuts Return Home with Chance to Send LDS Out in Style
In American Association Daily, Robert Pannier looks at the return of the Wichita Wingnuts to Lawrence-Dumont Stadium after they played the last 19 games on the road, and what we can expect from the team in their final 14 games at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
Wichita Wingnuts Homeward Bound – Finally!
There’s a team playing professional baseball in Wichita starting Tuesday night. Really! No, they are not an expansion team nor did Mayor Jeff Longwell find his elusive (or should we say imaginary) affiliate club. Instead, the Wichita Wingnuts will finally return after spending the last three weeks of the season on the road.
It’s a yearly tradition, where the club is required to depart during the NBC tournament, and has been a time of mixed results. In 2017, for example, the team went 6-11, as opposed to 2016 when they were 8-6.
This season, the Wichita Wingnuts returned from the road flying high. After 19 games and 20 days, the team returns with a 13-6 mark, including sweeping the Sioux City Explorers, the team with the best record in the American Association, before taking three of four from the Cleburne Railroaders to end the trip. It was an outstanding trip by anyone’s standards, helping to vault the team to just one half game behind the Kansas City T-Bones in the South Division.
What Lay Ahead
This should be an exciting time for the team. Not only have they gotten past their most difficult part of the season, but they will play 14 of their final 20 games at home, giving them a golden opportunity to earn that second playoff spot in the division.
However, it is also a bittersweet return. This will be the last year at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, and the team’s future is still left in doubt. No final decision has been made on whether the team will suit up next season, and due to what appears to be more ego than logic, the city of Wichita still seems hell-bent on trying to acquire the mythical affiliate club that would become the tenant of a brand-new ballpark.
That has left the Wichita Wingnuts in the precarious situation of wondering if this is going to be their last season in existence, whether they will be playing at Wichita State or some other venue for a single season, or if they may be moving to a new city altogether. Unfortunately, at this point, any one of those possibilities is just as likely as the others.
Focusing on the Now
However, there are still 20 games left in the 2018 American Association season. Director of Player Personnel Josh Robertson has acquired two outstanding bats to help improve the team’s fortunes, and both have provided key contributions since joining the club.
Angel Reyes, acquired from the Lincoln Saltdogs, was named the Minor League Sports Report Player of the Week last week after hitting .423 with eight runs scored and 10 RBI. He has recorded a hit in every contest since being acquired by Wichita 13 games ago, hitting .411 in a Wichita uniform while moving seamlessly into the cleanup spot.
Chase Simpson was acquired from Cleburne, although he began the season with Lincoln as well. He has only hit .188 in his 12 games since the move, but he is the kind of player who takes a week or two to adapt, then catches fire. He had just two hits in his first 20 at-bats with Cleburne, then reached base 24 times over the next seven games, proving that he can turn things around quickly.
The schedule for the Wichita Wingnuts is truly in their favor. They return for a nine game homestand against three teams that are a combined 25 games under .500. They also have the opportunity to directly affect the playoff chase, closing the season with three against the Kansas City T-Bones before three with the Sioux City Explorers, the two teams that are directly in front of them in the South Division.
The Wingnuts are in a prime position to make a playoff run. How fitting would it be to bring a championship to Wichita in what could be their final season. At the very least, it would close Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in style.
Featured Image by Ed Bailey
By Robert Pannier