In any given game, the Wingnuts’ offense will probably eventually work when leadoff hitter Ryan Khoury reaches base.
The accomplished hitters behind Khoury suggest odds that he’ll score at some point, and that the batters who follow him will help produce a big inning.
Wichita didn’t turn Khoury’s leadoff single in the fourth inning on Friday into a run, but when he reached to start the sixth and seventh, the Wingnuts had the makings of big innings.
Wichita scored three in each inning and went onto beat Gary-Southshore 6-4 at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in a win fueled by late-inning offense. The Wingnuts’ win, coupled with Kansas City’s loss to Fargo-Moorhead, means Wichita is three combined wins or Kansas City losses from clinching the American Association Central.
Khoury found multiple ways to ignite a Wichita offense that was stagnant for five innings — he had a single, a double, a walk, was hit by a pitch and stole two bases while scoring a pair of runs.
The player who has built a reputation with his ability to get on base scored on homers by the Wingnuts’ known power hitters, John Rodriguez and C.J. Ziegler.
"I look at that as my job," Khoury said. "I don’t really worry about RBIs. I know the guys behind me can get on base and we have plenty of guys who can drive me in. I just worry about getting on base, whether it be a hit, a walk or anything like that."
The Wingnuts had multiple hard-hit outs early against Gary starter Will Krout, but their collective comfort in the batter’s box didn’t immediately translate into tangible output as Krout retired the first nine hitters he faced.
Khoury broke through with a single in the fourth but was stranded in scoring position after he stole second. The Wichita shortstop also tallied the first extra-base hit against Krout, but that was in the sixth inning and Krout had already established his ability to work around Wingnuts baserunners.
"He’s got a lot of different pitches," Khoury said. "It’s kind of a funky arm angle. You just put that in the back of your mind and have good (at-bats). He was pretty effective, but also a lot of our outs were deep fly balls, line drives that their guys jumped and caught. We knew we were on him and we knew we just had to keep having the same ABs and things were going to fall."
Khoury’s sixth-inning double was followed by Jake Kahaulelio’s single that moved Khoury to third. On the next pitch, John Rodriguez launched a three-run opposite-field home run over the scoreboard in left, giving Wichita a 3-2 lead.
The Wingnuts left the bases loaded in the sixth, and that missed opportunity seemed especially critical when Gary tied it 3-3 in the top of the seventh. But Khoury once again served as catalyst for another big inning in the bottom half.
An 0-2 pitch from reliever Andrew Johnston hit Khoury, and he moved ahead two bases on his second steal and a wild pitch. The Wingnuts nearly lost another scoring chance when Jake Kahaulelio and Rodriguez failed to bring Khoury home, but C.J. Ziegler lined a full-count offering out to left.
The Wingnuts continued their scoring on a Wilson Batista RBI double that made it 6-3. The Wingnuts had eight of their 10 hits during their final three at-bats.
"I thought it was just a matter of time," Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. "We had some good swings, and that’s hard to do, go through (our) lineup 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3. We hit some balls hard, and sure enough our big guys come through with a three spot and a three spot."
Derek Blacksher pitched into the seventh inning for the Wingnuts, who can clinch a playoff spot by Sunday at the earliest. In his last four starts, Blacksher has gone 3-0 with a 1.91 ERA.
|Klein rf||3||1||1||1||Khoury ss||3||2||2||0|
|Massaro cf||5||1||2||0||Kahaulelio 2b||5||1||2||0|
|Kolb 3b||4||0||2||0||Rodriguez dh||4||1||1||3|
|Babineau c||5||1||3||2||Ziegler 1b||3||1||1||2|
|Tucker pr||0||0||0||0||Porter lf||4||1||1||0|
|Rohde 1b||5||0||0||0||Batista 3b||4||0||1||1|
|Mitchell dh||3||0||1||1||Peralta rf||3||0||1||0|
|Willis lf||4||0||1||0||Mier c||4||0||1||0|
|Carrara 2b||4||0||0||0||McDonald cf||4||0||0||0|
E— Carrara (5). LOB— Gary 10, Wichita 9. DP— Gary 1, Wichita 1. 2B— Babineau (6), Cooper (9), Khoury (16), Batista (4). 3B — Klein (6), Willis (1). HR — Rodriguez (15), Ziegler (16). SB — Khoury 2 (32), Batista (2), Peralta (21).
|Johnston L, 0-3||2/3||2||3||3||0||1|
|Walters W, 2-2||1 1/3||0||0||0||0||1|
|Dew S (8)||1||2||1||1||1||1|
WP — Johnston (1). HBP — by Walters (Kolb, Khoury),by Johnston (Mitchell).
Umpires — home, Mike O’Leary; first, Justin Anderson; third, Dixon Sturman. T — 2:56. A — 3,153.