There were several times Friday in the late innings of the Wingnuts’ game against Sioux City in which the law of averages suggested the contest was coming to an end.
Both managers played those percentages but both failed and the game went on.
There were no risks needed in the 11th inning, though, when C.J. Ziegler struck for a game-winning single that gave the Wingnuts a 6-5 win over the Explorers on Friday night at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
Ziegler’s hit was the culmination of managers altering their strategies in an effort to score the winning run, only to see those new plans backfire. Ziegler’s hit came with the bases loaded and was preceded by a walk to Mason Morioka, a pinch-hitter.
Morioka fell behind in the count 1-2 but took three straight, setting up Ziegler for his second walkoff hit of the season. He hit a 0-1 pitch by Chuck Lukanen down the left-field line.
"We’re trying to get back to that confidence that we had right before (Jake Kahaulelio) and I left (for the Mexican League)," Ziegler said. "It’s getting better each day. We’re getting back to having fun, and things are getting back to the way they were."
In the Sioux City ninth, Jorge Delgado was hit by a pitch to give Ray Serrano an opportunity with no outs. Serrano, a .300 hitter with 20 strikeouts in more than 300 at-bats, was essentially a sure bet to put the ball in play.
But Sioux City manager Stan Cliburn elected to have Serrano sacrifice bunt and leave the job of bringing in the run to the bottom of the order.
A runner in scoring position with one out wasn’t quite a perilous situation, but the bunt became a questionable decision when Yusuke Inoguchi and Adrian Martinez, a .237 hitter, failed to bring home the run.
After already stranding the go-ahead run on second after Wilson Batista’s game-tying double put him in scoring position with no outs, the Wingnuts didn’t go for manufacturing a run in the same situation in the 10th.
John Rodriguez singled to start the bottom of the 10th and pinch-runner Jared McDonald stole second. With Wichita’s middle of the order up, manager Kevin Hooper decided not to bunt, instead allowing his best run producers a chance to win the game.
Ziegler struck out and Greg Porter walked to put two runners on. After a Batista foul-out, David Peralta singled to right field. Hooper sent McDonald home with no hesitation, but a perfect strike from Peter Barrows nabbed McDonald with time to spare.
While Cliburn’s call for Serrano to bunt looked debateable in hindsight, Hooper’s decision to send McDonald with two outs, putting the pressure on Barrows, was defensible even if he would have made a different choice in an earlier inning.
The Wingnuts’ earlier failure in the clutch might also have weighed on Hooper in the 10th. After Batista’s double, Sioux City got out of the inning in seven pitches, striking out Peralta and getting Mier on a pop-foul double play with Batista running from second.
Wichita fell behind 3-1 and 4-2, plenty manageable deficits, but looked to be in the hole against Sioux City starter Colin Allen. The first two Wingnuts’ runs scored on solo homers by Rodriguez and Ziegler in innings Wichita had no other baserunners.
The Wingnuts made it 5-4 on a rally in the seventh that started with a two-out walk, and Batista’s RBI double set the stage for Ziegler’s heroics three innings later that reversed his earlier failure to deliver.
"I know what my job was and I need to get better at that," Ziegler said. "It’s something I need to work on, but I’m glad I got another chance and was able to capitalize."
|Newton lf||5||0||0||0||Khoury ss||6||0||1||0|
|Backman 3b||4||2||2||0||Kahaulelio 2b||5||1||2||1|
|Barrows rf||6||1||1||1||Rodriguez dh||4||1||2||1|
|Delgado 1b||4||0||2||2||McDonald pr||0||0||0||0|
|Priddy pr-ss||1||0||0||0||Morioka ph||0||0||0||0|
|Serrano dh||4||0||2||0||Ziegler 1b||6||1||2||3|
|Inoguchi cf||4||1||1||0||Porter lf||4||1||2||0|
|Martinez c||5||1||1||0||Batista 3b||5||0||2||1|
|Blistagne 3b-ss||4||0||0||0||Peralta rf||5||0||1||0|
|Murphy 2b||5||0||2||2||Mier c||5||0||0||0|
LOB—Sioux City 12, Wichita 11. DP—Sioux City 1. 2B—Serrano (26), Murphy (11), Kahaulelio (14), Batista (1), Conroy (19). 3B—Barrows (1). HR—Rodriguez (13), Ziegler (15). SB — Serrano (3), McDonald (15), Porter (4). S — Serrano, Bistagne.
|Lukanen L,3-4||1 2/3||4||1||1||3||2|
HBP — by Simon (Delgado). WP — Allen, Lukanen, Garcia, Martinez. Umpires — home, Hassan; first, Gonzalez; second, Brannin. T — 3:42. A — 4,077.