The Wingnuts signed pitcher Josh Stone on Friday, and a little more than 24 hours later he became the latest of Wichita’s dependable relievers.
In his first professional appearance since signing this week out of Tabor College, where he was an All-KCAC pitcher, Stone earned his first win by working out of a sixth-inning jam to prevent St. Paul from taking the lead.
Wichita’s hitters were energized by Stone’s performance, scoring seven runs in the bottom of the sixth to beat the Saints 11-4 Saturday night at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
Stone was a starter at Tabor but moved into a middle-relief role with the Wingnuts, so coming on with runners at first and third and no outs was somewhat nerve-racking in addition to being unfamiliar.
“It feels really good because I was pretty nervous coming in,” Stone said. “First pro appearance, runners on first and third — the nerves got to me a little bit, but I knew that I should pound the (strike) zone because that’s what I have to do coming in relief.”
Justin Klipp, making his first start for the Wingnuts after being signed this month, was strong through five innings, but his 93 pitches going into the sixth suggested he wouldn’t stick around much longer.
Klipp’s fatigue-based decline was steep, as he allowed four hits without recording an out in the sixth, leaving with a 4-3 lead but with St. Paul threatening. Stone allowed one inherited runner to score on a sacrifice fly, but it was sandwiched between a strikeout and a groundout that minimized the damage.
Stone pitched a scoreless seventh inning before giving away to Lincoln Holdzkom and Josh Dew, who combined for two perfect innings.
“That’s got to be my job coming in as a reliever, to minimize as best as possible,” Stone said. “The first out was definitely a pretty big help.”
The Wingnuts struck St. Paul starter Wes Koemer early, getting three hits in the first inning including a three-run home run by catcher Cole Armstrong. Wichita scored a run in the second on a triple by Mike Mobbs and David Amberson’s sacrifice fly, but then Roemer began to settle.
That was potentially bad news for the Wingnuts against Roemer, a former first-round draft pick who reached Triple-A with the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.
Roemer’s comfort, though, lasted only three innings, enough time for St. Paul to tie it but not enough for him to use that for momentum. The first seven Wingnuts hitters in the sixth reached base and the eighth, C.J. Ziegler, delivered a sacrifice fly.
Roemer didn’t register an out in the fifth and ended his outing having allowed 10 runs and 11 hits.
“It’s good to see, real good to see,” Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. “We don’t quit offensively. We kept battling, battling, had some real good at-bats and strung a big inning together. That was a lot of fun.”
Wichita had a six-run inning in Game 1 of a Friday doubleheader, fueled by a two-run homer by John Rodriguez. The start to Saturday’s big inning wasn’t as powerful — two infield singles and a hit batter — but just as significant.
Jared McDonald nearly unloaded the bases, but his line drive to the gap hopped over the wall for an automatic double. Abel Nieves and Ryan Khoury also had RBI doubles in the inning.
“We’re dangerous,” McDonald said. “It seems like it’s just a matter of time. Sometimes all it takes is one inning.”
The big inning might not have happened without Stone’s relief of Klipp, who was mostly strong in opposing Roemer, a former collegiate teammate at Cal-State Fullerton.
“That was a great outing, first time, by Stone,” McDonald said. “Coming in and getting the job done, they tied the game, but he came in and shut them down. That’s all you can ask for in that situation.”
|Kaczrowski 2b||5||0||1||0||Khoury ss||3||1||1||2|
|Frost ss||4||0||0||1||Kahaulelio 2b||4||1||2||1|
|Becker 3b||4||0||1||0||Loehrs 3b/ph||1||0||0||0|
|Brazell dh||4||1||3||0||Rodriguez dh||5||2||1||0|
|Sheldon 1b||4||1||1||0||Ziegler 1b||4||1||2||1|
|B. Tripp rf||4||1||1||1||Armstrong c||4||1||2||3|
|Hernandez cf||3||0||1||1||Dalrymple c||1||0||0||0|
|J. Tripp lf||4||0||0||0||Nieves 2b/3b||5||1||2||1|
|Childs c||3||1||1||1||Mobbs lf||3||2||1||0|
|St. Paul||000||013||000||—||4 9 0|
|Wichita||310||007||00x||—||11 14 1|
E— Ziegler (3). DP— Wichita 1. LOB— St. Paul 7, Wichita 8. 2B— Kaczrowski (4), Brazell (10, B. Tripp (7), Childs (7), Khoury (6), Rodriguez (11), Nieves (7), Amberson (4), McDonald (11). 3B – Mobbs (1). HR – Armstrong (4). SB – Amberson (5). SF – Childs (1), Ziegler (1), Amberson (2).
|Roemer L, 3-3||5||11||10||10||1||3|
|Stone W, 1-0||2||1||0||0||1||1|
HBP — Khoury by Romer (3), Mobbs by Roemer (4). WP — Klabunde (1). Umpires—Home, Dan Hoffman; first, Joey Stegner; third, Steve Linton.
T— 2:58. A— 4,574.