Wichita Wingnuts Slip Passed Grand Prairie 2-1, End Home Stand 5-1
A 2-1 victory by the Wichita Wingnuts over the Grand Prairie AirHogs on Sunday afternoon gave the club a 5-1 record in its first home stand of the season. Timely hitting and solid defense played a big part in the club’s success, but to see why they performed so well, one does not have to look much further than the starting pitching staff. They were the real story of the home stand.
The starting pitchers threw 37 innings in the six outings, and allowed just two earned runs. For those who thought they misread that number, it was accurate. Two. Two runs was all the starters allowed. That is a 0.49 ERA in six starts. That makes it easy to see why the club was so successful on this stand.
Sunday’s starter, Charlie Lowell, continued the amazing tradition. He had started the home stand with six shutout innings against Winnipeg last Tuesday, and continued his dominance on Sunday by allowing just one unearned run in 5-plus innings of work.
This was another close game, however. As the Wichita batting order still finds its grove, manager Kevin Hooper has looked to his pitching staff to lead the team. They have done just that. Lowell kept the AirHogs off the scoreboard for five innings, finally leaving after an unearned run scored in the sixth.
Meanwhile, Grand Prairie starter Brett Wallach was holding his own. The righty allowed just 3 hits in 6 innings of work, walked one, gave up one run, while striking out 5. The one run scored against him came in the bottom of the third. Dustin Geiger led off with a double and two batters later scored on a single by Tyler Coughenour. That was Coughenour’s first RBI of the season, in just his second start.
Lowell was on fire to start out the game. He retired the first seven batters, before giving up a one out walk in the third. He did not allow a hit until Victor Diaz doubled with two outs in the fourth. His biggest inning came in the fifth when he gave up a one out triple to Robi Estrada, then struck out the next two batters to preserve the lead.
In the sixth the AirHogs finally tied it up. Jamodrick McGruder was hit by a pitch to begin the frame and Josh Eatherly followed by grounding to Geiger at first. It appeared that Geiger had stepped on first before throwing to second to try to get McGruder, but the umpire ruled that the Wingnuts first baseman did not touch the bag. Both runners were safe and there was no one out. Zane Chavez singled to score McGruder and the game was tied. More importantly there was runners at first and second and no one out.
The Wingnuts manager brought in Daniel Bennett to relieve Lowell, and he delivered a relief appearance for the ages. Before doing so Bennett made it a little more challenging for himself. A 1-2 pitch from the right-hander was in the dirt, moving both runners into scoring position. No problem for Bennett however. He simply struck out the side in order to preserve the tie. It was about as clutch of an appearance as Hooper could have expected from his reliever.
The game remained tied until the bottom of the seventh when the Wichita Wingnuts would retake the lead. TJ Mittelstaedt doubled to start the inning, and Alberto Gonzalez followed with a perfect sacrifice to move Mittelstaedt to third. Geiger followed with a sacrifice fly to give the Wingnuts the 2-1 lead.
Daniel Carela relieved in the eighth and was absolutely dominant, striking out the side on 14 pitches. Dr. K, Matt Nevarez, came in to close out the game in the ninth. Nevarez allowed a lead-off single to Chris Elder, who stole second base, but a great move by the big right-hander picked Elder off second, wiping out the runner. Trevor Harden grounded out to end the game, and the Wingnuts were 2-1 winners.
Al Yevoli (2-0) was the winner, allowing two hits in his one inning of work, but no runs. Nevarez earned his third save of the season, and still has not been scored upon in five appearances. Matty Ott (0-2) took the loss for Grand Prairie.
The Wichita Wingnuts have Tuesday off before heading to Fargo-Moorhead to play Tuesday night.
By Robert Pannier