As absurd as the game played out Saturday night at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, it seemed proper that the ending to the Wingnuts’ 8-7 win over Fargo-Moorhead was just as crazy.
Brent Clevlen doubled to lead off a tie game in the bottom of the ninth, then scored the game-winning run on a pair of wild pitches during Nate Garcia’s attempt to intentionally walk J.T. Wise.
“In this game you have to expect anything,” Clevlen said. “It happened.”
The improbable fashion of the win matched an unlikely comeback hindered by a string of inconvenient events that turned an already depleted Wichita roster into a desperate situation.
The Wingnuts gambled this season by filling the roster with more pitchers (11) than position players (10). With starting shortstop Jake Kahaulelio out of town this weekend for personal reasons, the bench was already strained. Then Colt Loehrs suffered a broken wrist when he was hit by a pitch in the second inning Saturday night. Loehrs’ injury forced designated hitter J.T. Wise into the game at first base, requiring Wichita to give up its DH and send its pitcher into the batting lineup.
Three Wingnuts pitchers made plate appearances — two for the first time in their careers. Starter Anthony Capra grounded out to first in his only at bat in seven seasons. Reliever Jason Van Skike struck out on three pitches. Justin Klipp, who had two plate appearances earlier this season, pinch hit in a key situation with a runner in scoring position and down a run in the eighth but struck out on three pitches.
“I’ve been a pitcher since my sophomore year of high school,” the 25-year-old Van Skike said. “I was born a pitcher only. But I had too much pride. I had to go up there swinging.”
The Wingnuts’ roster problems stem beyond the pitchers’ rare plate appearances. With Kahaulelio and Loehrs unavailable, the roster has only eight position players. One short of filling an entire starting lineup, Wingnuts president and general manager Josh Robertson scrambled to find a starting designated hitter in time for Sunday’s afternoon home game.
Manager Kevin Hooper turned down the idea of activating himself and swinging a bat again for one game until Kahaulelio’s expected return on Monday. Hooper played for Wichita State and 10 seasons of professional baseball, mostly in the minor leagues. He tallied more than 1,100 hits in his career.
“I’d like to do it,” Hooper said. “But I’m past that now.”
Hooper said the team will make a temporary addition for the final game of the series.
Despite playing basically a man down offensively for most of the game, the Wingnuts scrapped their way back before taking advantage of Garcia’s back-to-back wild pitches.
Four lead changes in the first four innings gave way to a 6-4 Fargo lead through five innings. But the Wingnuts scored one run in each of the final four innings. Wise led off the sixth with a home run, and Clevlen singled with two outs in the seventh.
Fargo still led 7-6 in the eighth before relievers Joe Harris and Nate Garcia (0-1) combined to walk three consecutive batters – the last with the bases loaded – to surrender the lead.
Fargo completed its meltdown when Garcia’s attempt to intentionally walk Wise turned into two wild pitches and allowed Clevlen to score the game-winning run. The RedHawks infielders stood in disbelief as the Wingnuts celebrated at home plate.
“What a crazy game,” Hooper said. “There were plenty of times we could have folded, but we didn’t. We kept battling, battling, battling. And then Clev came through right when we needed him.”
The win lifted the first-place Wingnuts (25-11) to their fifth consecutive victory. Reliever Matt Nevarez (1-0) got the win by pitching a scoreless ninth.
|Penprase ss||3||1||2||1||Khoury ss||3||3||2||2|
|Bourquin 3b||3||0||0||0||Amberson rf||4||1||1||1|
|Carroll lf||5||1||1||0||Testa lf||4||0||1||1|
|Rethrfrd 1b||5||1||2||1||Clevlen cf||4||1||2||1|
|Jackson cf||5||1||2||0||McMurray c||4||0||1||1|
|Paramore c||4||2||1||1||Wise 1b/dh||4||1||2||1|
|Alberts dh||4||1||1||2||McClndn 3b||4||1||0||0|
|Newton 2b||2||0||1||1||Loehrs 1b||1||0||0||0|
|Fargo||120||210||100||—||7 10 1|
|Wichita||220||001||111||—||8 10 3|
One out when winning run scored.
E – Paramore (2), Wise (6), Loehrs (5), Capra (1). LOB — Fargo 8, Wichita 8. 2B – Penprase (11), Retherford (16), Jackson (5), Khoury (8), Amberson (6), Clevlen (13), Wise (13). HR – Retherford (4), Alberts (2), Khoury (2), Wise (6). SB – Jackson (5), Testa (11), Clevlen (5). CS – Penprase (4). SF – Testa (2), McMurray (2). S – Newton, Kaskadden.
|Garcia L, 0-1||2/3||1||1||1||2||1|
|Nevarez W, 1-0||1||1||0||0||0||1|
HBP – Penprase by Bennett; Loehrs by Ernst. WP – Harris, Garcia 2. Umpires—Home, Sama Burch; 1B, Trent Delmont; 3B, Art Thigpen.
T – 3:07. A – 3,495.