The whole of the Wingnuts’ offense Saturday night proved less than the sum of its parts.
Every Wichita batter had at least a moderately productive game and the Wingnuts, for the second straight night, weren’t retired in order. The individual efforts, however, produced no completeness as Wichita stranded 13 runners in a 6-3 loss to Grand Prairie at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
The Wingnuts never managed a hit with a runner in scoring position, and their most productive hits – a pair of leadoff home runs – came with nobody on base at all.
Grand Prairie’s ability to string hits together, particularly extra-base hits, allowed the AirHogs to build a significant late-inning lead while Wichita was out-hitting them. The lack of clutch hits kept Wichita from a third straight optimum output after it totaled 19 runs in two season-opening wins.
“It’s not like we were up there just flailing everywhere,” said Wichita shortstop Ryan Khoury, who reached base three times at the top of the order. “I thought this was going to be the year we were going 100-0.… Obviously, we’re going to lose a few, but it’s not like we were up there overmatched.”
Khoury brought in the first run with a bases-loaded walk in the second, and the Wingnuts didn’t score again until the eighth. They found a variety of ways to come up empty, wasting leadoff hits and potential two-out rallies, and getting thrown out on the bases.
Wichita manager Kevin Hooper pointed out some of the mistakes magnified by the absence of timely hitting, but there wasn’t much to criticize about Wingnuts batters before they reached base.
The Wingnuts balanced an eagerness to cut into Grand Prairie’s lead that kept them on the attack until the 27th out with a patience that fueled several of the near-rallies. Wichita drew five walks and was hit three times, all in the eighth inning, and forced three AirHogs pitchers to throw 173 pitches.
“With this team, top to bottom, we’re going to have a lot of nights where we’re not going to be out of it,” Hooper said.
Grand Prairie starter Brandon Bargas threw 95 pitches, and though he was often shaky, Wichita’s best chance for a comeback came when he gave way to a bullpen that has shown to be even more unsteady.
Wichita began to fulfill that promise when J.T. Wise homered to start the bottom of the eighth. Brent Clevlen, who also had two doubles, matched that feat in the ninth but the Wingnuts did nothing with the other five combined baserunners in those innings.
“There’s never a time where we come in and say we’re out of this game,” Khoury said. “We kept putting up good at-bats, and we just didn’t get those timely hits, but that’s going to happen in baseball.”
The line between success and failure was just as thin for Wichita starter Tim Brown. He allowed three doubles and two runs in the third, but his outing, and the Wingnuts’ result, may have looked different if Wichita had completed a double play in the sixth.
First baseman Chun-Hsiu Chen was unable to dig out a short hop, keeping the inning alive for Jason Botts, who hit a towering homer to right on an 0-1 pitch to put Grand Prairie ahead 4-1. The lead became 6-1 before the Wingnuts’ homers that added impact to their 11 hits but failed to break the monotony of their inability to produce momentum.
“We just didn’t get the big hit tonight,” Hooper said. “We kind of shot ourselves in the foot tonight, a couple mistakes here and there. Those are little things we talk about all the time.”
|Baker cf||5||0||1||1||Khoury ss||3||0||1||1|
|Pickney 2b||5||0||2||1||Kahaulelio 2b||5||0||1||0|
|Nieves rf||4||1||0||0||Clevlen cf||5||1||3||1|
|Rodriguez 1b||3||1||1||0||Chen 1b||4||0||0||0|
|Botts dh||4||1||1||2||Wise dh||4||2||2||1|
|Karr lf||3||0||0||1||Hazlett 3b||3||0||2||0|
|Hall 3b||4||2||2||0||McMurray c||4||0||0||0|
|DiFazio c||4||1||2||1||Testa lf||3||0||1||0|
|Burns ss||4||0||0||0||Anderson rf||4||0||1||0|
E — Burns (1), Khoury 2 (2). LOB — Grand Prairie 5, Wichita 13. 2B — Baker (1), Pinckney (1), Hall 2 (3), DiFazio (1), Clevlen 2 (2). HR — Botts 91), Clevlen (1), Wise (1). SF — Karr (1).
|Brown L,0-1||6 2/3||8||5||5||0||6|
HBP — Rodriguez, (by Zouzalik); Khoury, Hazlett, McMurray (by Cameron). Umpires—Home, Randy Wilges; first, Anthony Sheets; third, Derek Ivinski.
T — 3:19. A — 2,447.