Zack Cox’s Homerun Gives Wichita Wingnuts Late Victory, 3-2
The Wichita Wingnuts trailed for just one-half of an inning Wednesday night, but the team was finding the pesky Joplin Blasters were hard to shake. The Blasters kept this a competitive game, battling back from a one-run deficit in the sixth to tie the score at two, but Zack Cox would prove to be the hero of the day, blasting a deep homerun to right-center field to give the Wingnuts the 3-2 victory.
Things started out right for Joplin against Todd Kibby, who was making his first start of the season for the Wingnuts. Sean Smith led off the game with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice. Smith stole third and scored on a ground out by Charlie Valerio to make it 1-0 Blasters.
Wichita responded right away in the bottom of the first. Richard Prigatano singled against Carlos Fuentes to start the frame and then stole second, his 18th stolen base of the year. Two batters later Cox singled to center field, scoring Prigatano to tie the score at one.
In the bottom of the second, the Wingnuts would take their first lead of the game. Brent Dean doubled to get it started and moved to third on a wild pitch. Brennen Salgado followed by being hit by a pitch. The Wingnuts really looked like they had something going with runners at the corners with no one out, but Leo Vargas then hit into a double-play. Despite the twin killing, Dean scored to make it 2-1.
The Wichita Wingnuts tightly held onto the lead as Kibby was brilliant through his five innings of work. In the sixth Fabian Roman came on and found himself in trouble quickly. With one out, Brandon Tierney and Alex Polston hit back-to-back singles before Jack Wietlispach walked to load the bases. That would be all for Roman as Manager Pete Rose, Jr. turned to Chase Johnson to get his team out of a jam. The right-hander gave up a sacrifice fly before striking out the final batter of the inning and the score was tied at two.
It would stay that way heading into the eighth as Johnson was absolutely brilliant for Wichita and the Joplin bullpen was pitching equally as well. That it until the bottom of the eighth.
Cox led off the inning and fell behind 1-2. He then ripped a shot deep over the fence in right-center for his seventh homer of the year. That was his second homerun of the series, and fourth in his last eight games.
In the ninth, the Wingnuts turned to Frankie Reed. He was brilliant as always, retiring the Blasters in order for his 11th save of the season. Johnson (4-0) earned the victory. Roby Romero (0-2) took the loss despite pitching extremely well.
Cox finished the day 3-4 with a run and 2-RBI. Matt Chavez also had 2-hits. No Joplin player had more than one-hit in the game.
The final contest of the four-game set is tomorrow. Eddie Medina (1-3, 6.21) takes to the hill for the Wichita Wingnuts. He will be opposed by Wander Perez (0-0, 1.50). Game time is 7:05.
By Robert Pannier