Five innings of positive signs, starting in the fourth, foreshadowed a fairy-tale ending for the Wingnuts, except they never gave away the hero.
There turned out to be three. The Wingnuts trailed by a run with two outs and nobody on base in the bottom of the ninth before those roles were finally and officially cast out of necessity.
Chris McClendon, Jake Kahaulelio and Brent Clevlen reeled off consecutive singles to plate a pair of runs and the Wingnuts pulled out an 8-7 win over Sioux Falls at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
The Wingnuts’ consistently got clutch hits and escaped two late-inning jams on the mound to set up the improbable, but perhaps predictable, rally against Sioux Falls closer Alan DeRatt.
Clevlen won it with a sharp single to right field, his fourth hit of the night, to score Kahaulelio.
“We got guys on,” Clevlen said. “Chris got on there with two outs and stole second, and right there we’re already in scoring position. Jake battled. Not the hardest hit ball, but he battled, put the bat on the ball, and made something happen.”
McClendon’s duties in keeping the Wingnuts’ hopes alive were seemingly fulfilled in the seventh, when he drove in two runs with his second single of the game to make it 5-5 and cap a three-run inning.
The Wingnuts were energized after Mike Zouzalik escaped a bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh, and the same happened in the ninth with a lot coming in between.
Sioux Falls regained the lead when left fielder Carlo Testa misplayed a line drive into an error that scored two runs, and Clevlen homered in the bottom of the eighth, his second in two nights.
In the top of the ninth, Sioux Falls had runners in scoring position with no outs after a single and a double, but Nevarez escaped with no damage.
After David Amberson grounded out and Ryan Khoury popped up to conclude an eight-pitch at-bat, McClendon got the first chance to allow the Wingnuts’ previous strong clutch performances to begin to pay off.
“Right there with two outs, nobody on base, you’re down by a run, you getting on first base is huge,” McClendon said. “Right there you’re just looking for a good pitch to hit, and you’re looking to put a good swing on it. I got a really good pitch to hit there on the first pitch, and I was a hair behind it. Once you get behind right there, you just have to battle.”
Battling seemed to be the key for each of the Wingnuts’ final three hitters, who all fell behind in the count.
Kahaulelio worked back to a full count and fouled off a pair of two-strike pitches before his single to left field scored McClendon, who stole second base six pitches before without a play.
“You try to look for a pitch early that you can drive,” Kahaulelio said. “After a while, once (McClendon) got onto second, your game changes. You don’t try to hit the home run anymore. You try to tie the game because you have Clevlen behind you.
“My approach went from, when he was on first, to try to drive a ball in the gap or possibly out. Then, when he got on second, definitely just get a base hit or something to tie the game.”
Kahaulelio also reached scoring position, advancing to second on the throw home, and Clevlen came up as the ideal hitter in an important situation. He had four hits Tuesday, including a homer and a double, and three in the series opener on Monday, with a grand slam and five RBIs.
Clevlen lined DeRatt’s second pitch to right field for the game-winner, giving the Wingnuts a win that took nearly every out to complete but may have been set up as early as the fourth inning, when Chris McMurray’s two run double appeared to land foul over down the third-base line.
Clevlen’s fourth hit raised his batting average to .340, tying him with Testa for the team lead.
“I’m up fifth in that inning,” Clevlen said. “I know the only way I’m going to get up is with guys on base. I’m trying to stay up the middle, stay short and not try to do too much. Their guy threw a breaking ball on 0-1, and I got good wood on it.”
|Tinoco rf||4||1||1||1||Khoury ss||4||1||0||0|
|Jones lf||5||0||2||0||McClendon 3b||5||1||3||2|
|Kirby-Jones 1b||4||1||3||0||Kahaulelio 2b||5||1||1||1|
|Duffy dh||4||1||1||1||Clevlen cf||5||2||4||2|
|Mendez 3b||4||0||0||0||Testa lf||4||1||1||0|
|Valencia cf||5||2||3||2||McMurray c||3||0||1||2|
|Brance ss||4||1||1||0||Robinson dh||3||0||0||0|
|Lind 2b||3||1||1||0||Whyte 1b||4||1||1||0|
|Hitt c||4||0||2||3||Amberson rf||4||1||2||0|
E— Sioux Falls 1, Wichita 1. DP— Sioux Falls 1, Wichita 2. LOB— Sioux Falls 8, Wichita 6. 2B— Kirby-Jones 2, Hitt, Clevlen, McMurray. HR — Clevlen. SB — Valencia, Khoury, Amberson. CS Kirby-Jones, Lind, Amberson.
WP — Ruwe. Umpires—Home, Trent Delmont; first, J.J. Garrocho; third, Joe Pascucci.
T— 3:11. A— 3,305.