Not even his manager can contain David Amberson’s superior speed.
Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper, who also serves as third-base coach, attempted to stop Amberson at third in the eighth inning Friday night. That would have left Amberson, Wichita’s fastest player, 90 feet from scoring the go-ahead run.
Amberson defied Hooper’s orders – or maybe it was just a suggestion considering Amberson’s running ability – and sprinted home to put the Wingnuts ahead before they eventually beat Gary SouthShore 4-2 in front of a River Festival crowd of 6,294 at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
Friday’s game was halted for nearly 40 minutes after the Wingnuts took the lead due to the River Festival’s fireworks show. Wichita has won six in a row and its 12-4 record is tops in the American Association. Wingnuts pitchers have 11 runs during the streak.
“He was screaming at me to not go, but I couldn’t hear anything,” Amberson said. “There’s like 7,000 fans here and I was wheeling. I thought there was a pretty good chance I could score. I should have looked at him, I just ended up going.”
Amberson’s speed can impact the outcomes of games, like when he stole second base before Ryan Khoury’s decisive hit in a 2-1 win over Laredo on Wednesday.
Friday, Amberson bunted for a hit to start the sixth and Wichita had two runners on base with one out, but Jake Kahaulelio grounded into a double play to temporarily preserve Gary starter Dustin Crenshaw’s shutout.
Amberson’s second bunt hit wasn’t intended that way. Wichita started its half of the eighth with a single and a walk, and Amberson laid down a sacrifice. Poor communication between two Gary infielders led to the ball rolling past both of them, and Amberson was on to load the bases.
“That’s always been my greatest weapon, is my speed,” Amberson said. “Getting a couple bunts down today, that always feels good, and that last one I guess there was some miscommunication and that ended us helping us out.”
Gary manager Greg Tagert exploited his bullpen for favorable matchups, and Ryan Khoury popped out to shortstop with no runners advancing. Left-handed pitcher Joe Testa was then called upon to face left-handed hitting Carlo Testa – no relation – but the Gary lefty was unable to keep the matchup in his favor.
Carlo Testa lined a double to center field. Chris McMurray and Colt Loehrs scored easily, but Hooper directed to hold at third because Gary’s relay was quickly executed.
Amberson, though, never stopped running. There wasn’t much of a play at the plate, either, as the throw home hopped off the pitcher’s mound and into the air, reaching home well after Amberson’s head-first slide.
“I’m a very aggressive guy,” Hooper said. “I told him after the fact (that) it worked out, but if he gets thrown out at the plate right there I’m going to be pretty upset. The guy had the ball, pretty much, when he was coming around third.”
The situation dictated Hooper’s decision to attempt to hold Amberson. With its fastest player on third base, the Wingnuts could have scored on a shallow fly ball, or perhaps even a groundball with the infield in.
Wichita also had the middle of the order due up, which would have given Jake Kahaulelio, who had an RBI hit after the delay, and Brent Clevlen chances to drive in Amberson.
“That’s why I was holding him,” Hooper said. “If he gets thrown out there, we’ve got a guy standing on second base with two outs. It worked out for us, then we added on one more.”
Testa’s and Amberson’s efforts erased seven poor innings against Crenshaw, who faced 12 batters to record 12 outs through four innings, didn’t allow an extra-base hit, and saw two runners reach scoring position.
Crenshaw was removed after McMurray started the bottom of the eighth with a single.
“Some huge at-bats there to get us back into it,” Hooper said. “Pretty lackadaisical there at the beginning, weren’t working any adjustments, just OK at-bats. But we turned it around when we needed to.”
|Pulfer ss||4||1||0||0||Khoury ss||4||0||0||0|
|Martinez rf||4||1||2||0||Testa lf||3||1||2||3|
|Romanski lf||5||0||0||0||Kahaulelio 2b||4||0||1||1|
|Maddox c||3||0||1||2||Clevlen cf||4||0||1||0|
|Backman 3b||4||0||1||0||Wise c||4||0||1||0|
|Hamilton 1b||4||0||1||0||Hernandez dh||4||0||0||0|
|Taylor dh||3||0||1||0||McMurray 1b||3||1||2||0|
|Mitchell 2b||4||0||0||0||Loehrs 3b||2||1||0||0|
|Bishop cf||3||0||1||0||Amberson rf||3||1||2||0|
|Gary||002||000||000||—||2 7 2|
|Wichita||000||000||04x||—||4 9 0|
E — Backman (4), Bishop (3). LOB — Gary 10, Wichita 5. 2B – Hamilton (4), Taylor (1), C. Testa (5), Kahaulelio (10). HBP – Taylor (1) by Van Skike. SB — Martinez (5), Bishop 2 (2), C. Testa (4). CS – C. Testa (2), Wise (2).
|Stephens L, 1-1||1/3||1||2||2||1||0|
|Van Skike W, 2-0||1||1||0||0||0||1|
WP – Van Skike (1). HBP – Taylor by Van Skike (1). Umpires—Home, David Frame; 1B, Bryan Childe; 3B, Bill Montgomery.
T — 2:54. A – 6,294.