Many times, the exit of a starting pitcher is the cause of a surge by the opposing offense. But the Wingnuts' hitters were showing the signs of life that were often non-existent during the first five innings Wednesday even before Fort Worth starter Dwayne Pollok came out of the game.
The Wingnuts used a sixth-inning awakening, which didn't result in any runs, to rally from a three-run deficit to tie the score in the bottom of the ninth. Then they won it in the 12th on Josh Workman's one-out double, scoring Juan Richardson, who drew a walk two batters earlier.
Workman, who helped the Wingnuts dig out of their late-innings hole, deposited a Cody White fastball to the gap in right-center field, easily scoring Richardson from second to give Wichita a 4-3 win at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
"I was hoping it would happen earlier in the game," Workman said. "But (the count) went 1-0, and I was just trying to get the bat head out on one and get a good pitch. I just got lucky and got on it."
Pollok, who pitched for Fort Worth in 2010 before an unsuccessful stint in the Mexican League to start this season, was signed by the Cats on Wednesday and started in his first game with his new/old team.
The Wingnuts couldn't figure out Pollok for the first five innings, even though the Cats' right-hander didn't provide anything particularly deceiving or mysterious. All he did was rarely throw anything out of the strike zone, and the Wingnuts had little choice but to swing early, lest they face continuous unfavorable counts.
"He commanded the strike zone," Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. "Both sides of the plate he kind of kept guys off-balance. We just kept plugging and plugging and plugging and drew a couple longer at-bats here and there, and finally we eventually got to the bullpen."
Pollok was able to stick with that approach with few repercussions two times through the Wingnuts' batting order. Pollok didn't throw more than 13 pitches in any of the first five innings, and he got through the first three on a total of 27.
Pollok didn't last into the seventh after going to his first two three-ball counts, including a walk, in the sixth. He struck out two in the inning, but it was clear the Wingnuts were beginning to solve him and were perhaps ready to put a dent in Fort Worth's 3-0 lead.
Nick DeBarr was the victim of Wichita's newfound confidence. Workman led off the bottom of the seventh with a double, scoring three batters later on a single by Josh Horn.
Evan Button followed Horn's hit with a double, scoring Mike Conroy and delivering a hit that was supposed to give Wichita two runners in scoring position with one out.
But Horn ran through Hooper's stop sign and got in a rundown between third base and home before being tagged out. Ryan Patterson popped out to end the inning.
Horn helped the Wingnuts tie it 3-3 two innings later, drawing a walk with two outs and nobody on base in the bottom of the ninth. He stole second, moved to third when Evan Button reached on an error, and scored on Patterson's double down the left field line.
Wichita starting pitcher Junior Guerra didn't match Pollok's early efficiency, often laboring during his six-inning outing. But Guerra wasn't overcome by Fort Worth getting a base runner against him in every inning, and he wasn't undone by leadoff home runs in the fourth and fifth innings.
Guerra kept the Wingnuts close until he was relieved by Trent Lare in the seventh after allowing three runs on six hits with four walks and four strikeouts.
Lare, Brandon Mathes and Jared Simon held Fort Worth down as Wichita's offense emerged. Josh Dew earned the win with 2 1/3 scoreless innings.