The only difference between Wednesday and the previous two games in which the Wingnuts scored a lot of runs is that, well, they didn’t score a lot of runs.
At least not early, when Wichita had several chances to break through against shaky El Paso pitching but managed just two sacrifice flies through the first seven innings.
The quantity was there when Wichita needed it, though, as the Wingnuts scored two in the eighth to tie it before Abel Nieves delivered an RBI double in the bottom of the ninth that gave them a 5-4 win at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
The Wingnuts had a baserunner in every inning but left eight on base through eight before a pair of rallies that involved every segment of the lineup and a pair of players that didn’t start the game.
"We kept battling, kept battling," Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. "… We kept chipping away offensively, good to see. We kept battling all night."
Wichita survived a sluggish first three innings that included six walks and four wild pitches by starting pitcher Junior Guerra and an ejection more eventful than most.
El Paso’s Jose Garcia was granted a walk on what Hooper and catcher Cole Armstrong believed was the third ball against him. Home-plate umpire Brian Urton consulted Art Thigpen for help, but the call wasn’t changed, sending Armstrong into an animated tirade.
Armstrong’s tantrum included foul language and, after he was ejected, an obscene gesture toward the umpires as he walked toward the clubhouse. He threw his face mask down and launched his glove, and he had to be restrained by Hooper. It was Armstrong’s third ejection.
"He can’t get thrown out of the game right there," Hooper said. "That’s too many times that’s happened this year. We’ve got to keep control of ourselves with that."
Once the Wingnuts got through the early adversity, they found themselves with a manageable 3-0 deficit that they began to trim with a run in the fourth. Guerra got through seven innings that weren’t always sharp, but he controlled the walks in the later innings and threw 30 pitches in innings 5-7.
A Wichita run in the seventh made it 4-2, and the game-tying rally was keyed by Stephen Yoo, who replaced Armstrong and led off the bottom of the eighth with a double, followed by another double by pinch-hitter Colt Loehrs.
"We took the game out of those guys’ (hands)," Nieves said. "We started kind of slow, but we picked it up at the end."
The very end, in fact, as Nieves’ hit came with two outs. John Rodriguez walked to start the final frame and moved to second on a slow roller to shortstop by C.J. Ziegler. Following Yoo’s strikeout, Nieves lined an outside fastball over the head of right fielder Brian Joynt.
Both Nieves’ hit and Loehrs’ double off the wall in the eighth may have drifted foul during the windier early innings, but when those conditions weakened later, Wichita earned clutch hits that didn’t come before.
"It’s nice to have the luxury of having a guy like Colt on the bench right there, with a lefty going," Hooper said. "He came on and got a huge hit for us. What a big night for him to come in and do that. Almost left the yard."
Previous opportunities were squelched by a second-inning double play, a caught-stealing to end the third, and failure to move runners into scoring position when they reached with fewer than two outs or to convert RBI chances.
Nieves was in the middle of every run-scoring inning, with a sacrifice fly in the fourth and a single in the eighth that led to him scoring the tying run. None of his previous hits and RBIs were as satisfying as the last one, though.
"I love it, I love it," Nieves said. "I love the pressure, and that makes me (come up) big."
|Gonzalez ss||3||1||0||0||Khoury ss||2||0||0||1|
|Garcia 2b||1||1||0||0||Kahaulelio 2b||5||0||2||0|
|Joynt rf||2||2||1||0||Rodriguez dh||3||2||0||0|
|Cisneros 1b||4||0||1||2||Ziegler 1b||4||0||1||0|
|Einertson cf||4||0||1||1||Armstrong c||1||0||1||0|
|Ramirez dh||4||0||1||0||Yoo c||3||1||1||0|
|Muse lf||4||0||0||0||Nieves 3b||4||1||3||2|
|McAlpine c||3||0||0||0||Rotola lf||3||0||0||0|
|Corcino 3b||4||0||1||0||Loehrs lf, ph||1||0||1||1|
|El Paso||003||010||000||—||4 5 0|
|Wichita||000||100||121||—||5 11 0|
LOB— El Paso 6, Wichita 11. DP— El Paso 1, Wichita 1. 2B— Cisneros (9), Kahaulelio (8), Ziegler (8), Yoo (3), Nieves (5), Loehrs (3). SF — Joynt (1), Khoury (2), Nieves (1), Amberson (1). SB — Garcia (5). CS — Corcino (2), Khoury (2).
|Koons L, 1-1||1||1||1||1||2||1|
|Dew W, 2-0||1||0||0||0||0||0|
WP — Guerra 5 (8).
Umpires — home, Brian Urton ; first, Art Thigpen; third, Derek Ivinski. T — 3:14. A — 2716.