GARY, Ind. — The Wichita Wingnuts secured a road split in the American Association championship series.
And they did it the hard way.
Wichita topped the RailCats 6-4 in 10 innings in Game 2 on Wednesday night at the Steel Yard, after Gary had put up two runs in the ninth to send the game to extra innings. With the best-of-5 series tied at 1-1, it shifts to Lawrence-Dumont Stadium for the duration, beginning with Friday night’s Game 3.
As for Game 2?
“What a ballgame,” RailCats manager Greg Tagert said. “We would’ve, obviously, loved to have snuck one out of there.”
Instead, Wichita did.
Brent Clevlen doubled with one out in the 10th — the Wingnuts’ only hit of an inning that started with Kyle Lindquist hitting Jake Kahaulelio — to give them a 5-4 lead, and Cole Armstrong added a sacrifice fly.
“Bouncing right back, I tip our hat to our ballclub,” Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. “In that situation (after losing the lead in the ninth), you could fold down and be done, and we didn’t.
“We got the split, and that’s the goal at the beginning. If you can take two, what a luxury. If you go down 0-2, you’re in trouble. But if you get the split, you’re in a good position — it becomes a best-of-3 now.”
In the bottom of the 10th, the RailCats loaded the bases with two outs, before Erik Lambe entered the game and struck out Zac Mitchell on three pitches.
“Like I’ve said, they make you pay if you put yourself in bad situations,” Hooper said. “We flirted with disaster again at the end there, but we got out of it finally.”
Trailing 4-2, the RailCats had rallied for two runs in the ninth against Wingnuts closer Josh Dew, who wound up with the win after he had been seeking a four-out save. Brian Kolb sliced a triple off the chalk down the right-field line, and scored when Drew Martinez legged out an infield hit. After Mitchell’s sacrifice bunt and Danny Pulfer’s groundout, Adam Klein came through with the game-tying single on a 2-2 pitch.
“That’s a little reminder of what we’ve done all year,” Tagert said. “We’ve been very good in those situations, and against one of the better guys in the league in Josh Dew, who’s tough on everybody.”
Hooper said of the RailCats: “They’re tough, man. They don’t quit. That’s a tough team to beat. They don’t ever quit until the very end.”
In a RailCats-esque sixth, the Wingnuts strung together five straight one-out singles to score three runs, moving ahead 4-2. Abel Nieves delivered the go-ahead two-run single to cap a lengthy at-bat against RailCats starter Stephen Hiscock, and Armstrong followed by lining a run-scoring single. John Rodriguez (a scorcher to center), CJ Ziegler (a seeing-eye grounder through the hole) and Clevlen (a grounder through the hole) had back-to-back-to-back hits to load the bases.
“They put that inning together, a tough one for Stephen,” Tagert said. “He pitched a lot better than that linescore is going to indicate. He deserved a much better fate.”
The RailCats had taken a 2-1 lead in the fourth on Kolb’s one-out run-scoring single to left, their third hit of the inning.
For the second straight game, the Winguts grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second on a two-out double. This time, Armstrong drove a ball to right-center, plating Nieves from first base.
The RailCats tied the score in the third. Mitchell got hit by a pitch to lead off, Pulfer got down a sacrifice bunt, and Klein lined a single inside first. But the RailCats made two outs on the bases; second baseman Kahaulelio made a terrific play on Mike Massaro’s infield hit to throw back to third to catch Klein rounding the bag, then Massaro got caught stealing to end the inning.
“I’m sure Wichita is thrilled, just like we were in Fargo (in the semifinals),” Tagert said. “You take a game, that’s why the series was built that way.… You take two of three, and baseball is built on winning series.”
Notes — Billy Spottiswood, who allowed one run in a complete game against Fargo-Moorhead, is scheduled to start Game 3 for the RailCats. The Wingnuts are slated to counter with lefty Anthony Capra, who pitched 7 1/3 shutout innings against Grand Prairie.… Marco Gonzalez (elbow) made his first appearance since Aug. 4, entering the game with two outs in the eighth. Gonzalez, the RailCats closer before the injury, struck out Armstrong, the only batter he faced.
|Khoury ss||5||0||1||0||Klein lf||5||0||2||2|
|Kahaullio 2b||4||1||0||0||Massaro rf||5||0||2||0|
|Rodriguwz dh||4||1||1||0||Guerrero dh||4||1||1||0|
|Ziegler 1b||3||2||1||0||Fronk 1b||4||0||1||0|
|Clevlen cf||5||1||2||1||Babineau c||3||0||0||0|
|Nieves 3b||3||1||1||2||Maddox ph-c||2||0||1||0|
|Armstrong c||4||0||2||3||Kolb 3b||4||1||3||1|
|Amberson rf||5||0||1||0||Martinez cf||4||1||1||1|
|McDonald lf||4||0||1||0||Mitchell ss||3||1||0||0|
E— Amerson (1), Pulfer (1). DP— Gary 1. LOB— Wichita 8, Gary 10. 2B— Clevlen (2), Armstrong (1), McDonald (1), Maddox (1). 3B — Kolb (1). SB — Massaro (1). CS — McDonald, Massaro. S — Rodriguez, Pulfer, Mitchell.
|Dew W,1-0||1 2/3||3||2||2||0||2|
|Lindquist L,0-1||1 1/3||1||2||2||1||0|
HBP —by Smith (Fronk, Mitchell), by Lindquist (Kahaulelio) . WP — Dew, Hiscock. Umpires—Home, Pat McLaughlin; first, Joe Pascucci; second, Joe Stegner; third, Art Thigpen.
T— 3:24. A— 2,168.