Wichita Wingnuts Six Run Inning Snatches Victory from Jaws of Defeat: American Association Playoffs
For six innings the Wichita Wingnuts had absolutely no answer for Laredo starter Ceasr Carrillo. The right-hander had a little trouble with his command, walking five through the first six-innings, but he had not been scored upon, despite loading the bases in the second with one out. Carrillo was hand-cuffing the Wingnuts batters while nursing a 1-0 lead. Too bad for Carrillo that his nursing skills ended abruptly and demonstrably.
Wichita started 12-game winner Jason Van Skike. The righty had been perfect at home all season long, going 8-0, and the team had not lost a home start of his this season. He got off to a bit of a rough start in the first when Travis Denker hit a solo home run for Laredo, staking the team to a 1-0 lead. For Denker it was his second home run of the series, and the second time he had blasted a solo shot.
After that Van Skike settled down. The righty retired 13 in a row from the third through the sixth innings, and finally allowed a base runner to reach when Denker reached first on an error to start the seventh. Van Skike would strand the runner at first however, and finish the night with seven solid innings of work, giving up just 2 hits and no walks, while striking out 4. He gave up the first inning home run, and then a two out single in the second, but did not allow another batter to reach base until the error. It was a remarkable start indeed.
Speaking of remarkable, Carrillo was piecing together his own gem, but he had been living a bit more on the edge that Van Skike had. He had at least one batter reach safely in every inning of the game, but had not yielded a run. It was a great run that found its end in the bottom of the seventh.
The first three batters of the inning reached base, the last two when the Lemurs starter threw eight straight balls to walk Jared McDonald and Ryan Khoury to load the bases. What was most disconcerting was that both batters were attempting to sacrifice, but Carrillo had been so wild with his pitches that he walked both instead. That brought Chris McClendon to the plate, who lined a single up the middle, scoring McDonald and Luce and giving the Wingnuts their first lead. They were not done. One out later Clevlen singled between the shortstop and third baseman to score two more, and Carrillo’s night was over. Manager Pete Incaviglia turned to his bullpen, but they could not keep the Wingnuts from plating two more runs on a Abel Nieves single and a double by Carlo Testa that made the score 6-1.
The rally sank the Lemurs. They would score two more in the ninth inning, but it was not enough on this night. Van Skike earned the win, while Carrillo took the loss. One inning did in the Lemurs, and the inning showed that a pitcher can do it right all night long, but all it takes is one bad inning and he is down hard and fast.
The Wingnuts will have a chance to close out the series when they send newcomer Celson Polanco to the mound to face Josh Strawn Sunday night. This will be the eighth straight time these two teams have faced each other, and the 12th in the last three weeks. Wichita has won 9 of the last 11 games between the two.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Baseball Editor
Member of the IBWAA