After a lethargic six innings Tuesday in which the Wingnuts pitched and hit poorly, there wasn’t much to suggest that a breakthrough was about to occur. Except two key elements that made a rally possible, even if unlikely.
Wichita opened the bottom of the seventh with the top of the order. Also, Amarillo starter Joe Newby was going through the order for the fourth time, a difficult proposition for even the most effective pitcher.
The Wingnuts turned those possibilities into realities, scoring four runs in the seventh to take the lead before an eighth-inning home run by Jake Kahaulelio produced an 8-5 win over the Sox at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
Leadoff batter Ryan Khoury led off the inning with a triple, and Wichita found plenty of ways to score against Newby and two relievers, frequently producing in the clutch.
“We take pride in going out there every inning,” Khoury said. “No matter if we’re down by seven or eight, start chipping away. Me at the top of the order, I know that if I get on base those guys do a good job getting me in. We take pride in, as a team, never taking (at-bats) off and just trying to scrap each inning.”
The Wingnuts had a runner in scoring position against Newby. Their failures in most of those situations offered a silver lining in that Newby entered the seventh inning having thrown 102 pitches because of the high volume of baserunners.
Newby lost it quickly, surrendering Khoury’s triple before hitting Kahaulelio, prompting Newby’s exit. Amarillo’s bullpen supplied no relief, as the next six Wichita batters either reached base or delivered a run-scoring out.
“We’re such a weird group,” Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. “I give them the day off from (batting practice) to give them a little extra rest.… I told them, ‘We’ve struggled in those games, so get yourself mentally and physically prepared, whatever you have to do.’
“Once again, we showed up lethargic. I don’t know what it is. It might be better if we just (take batting practice) every single day. But I’ve got to give them some credit, we came through at the end.”
Khoury’s triple and a bloop RBI double by Brent Clevlen were the highlights of the four-run seventh, but just as effective were the last flashy at-bats that produced the game’s most important runs.
After Amarillo brought in left-handed reliever Kristhiam Linares to match up with John Rodriguez, Rodriguez hit a sacrifice fly for the first run of the inning. Colt Loehrs bookended the scoring with his own sacrifice fly for the go-ahead run.
Wichita also scored a run when Cole Armstrong was hit with the bases loaded, and a pair of walks helped the Amarillo trio of pitchers accumulate 35 pitches.
“Working the count is big, especially on a pitcher who’s deep into the game already,” Loehrs said. “He had already thrown 90, 100 pitches. I felt like we did a good job late in the game; early, it wasn’t so good.”
Wichita’s opposing-pitcher-aided innings mirrored those of Amarillo’s early. Wingnuts starter Anthony Capra walked four in five innings, throwing 94 pitches before giving way to the bullpen.
The damage against Capra, though, could have been much worse. Amarillo didn’t have a run-scoring hit against him, producing runs via a walk, two RBI groundouts, a sacrifice fly and an error. The Sox left a pair of runners on base in the second a fifth innings, keeping two-run innings from becoming even more productive.
The four-run deficit with which Capra left the game seemed monumental at the time for the sluggish Wingnuts, but solid at-bats from veteran hitters in clutch situations reversed their fortunes.
“That’s when we’re going good,” Hooper said. “It’s not a guy up there trying to hit a four-run home run with nobody on. Just let the next guy do it. Our lineup is so good, just look behind you. The next guy hitting is probably pretty good, so give him a chance.”
|Martin cf||5||1||1||0||Khoury ss||4||2||2||0|
|De La Grz 2b||5||1||1||0||Kahaullio 2b||3||2||1||2|
|Valencia rf||4||0||1||1||Rodriguez dh||5||0||1||1|
|Welk lf||3||1||2||1||Ziegler 1b||3||1||1||0|
|Patton dh||3||0||0||0||Clevlen cf||3||2||1||2|
|Jones 3b||5||1||1||0||Nieves 3b||4||0||0||0|
|Gallagher 1b||3||0||1||1||Armstrong c||3||0||1||2|
|Ford c||2||0||0||0||Loehrs rf||3||0||0||1|
|Serna ss||3||1||1||1||McDonald lf||3||1||1||0|
E—Jones (16), Capra (2). LOB— Amarillo 10, Wichita 10. 2B— Serna (10), Rodriguez (19), Ziegler (16), Clevlen (5). 3B — Khoury (2). HR — Kahaulelio (11). SF — Serna (5), Loehrs (1). SB — Ford (3), Clevlen (2). CS — McDonald (5).
|Walters W,1-1||1 1/3||2||0||0||0||3|
HBP — by Newby ( Kahualelio 2, Clevlen), by Giles (Armstrong), by Dew (Weik). WP — Newby, Capra 2. Umpires—Home, Dan Hoffman; first, Pat McLaughlin; second, Darius Ghani.
T— 3:06. A— 1,597.