If Taylor Freeman’s failed squeeze bunt with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning clarified anything, it was that if Freeman had another chance to produce in the same situation for the Wingnuts, he was going to swing.
Another bunt would have been too risky in a tie game in the bottom of the 10th, and a bases-loaded walk was all but out of the question — Freeman hadn’t drawn a walk in any of his previous 72 plate appearances.
Freeman defied the odds with the help of Jacob Wiley’s wildness. With the bases full, Freeman took four straight balls from Wiley, bringing home Juan Richardson with the run that gave the Wingnuts a 6-5 win over Kansas City on Sunday afternoon at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
"I guess a great time to do it," Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. "We just kept plugging and plugging and plugging. It was hot, and a lot of guys were worn out."
Freeman didn’t need to exert much energy in his game-winning plate appearance, but that doesn’t mean it came easy.
A typically aggressive hitter, Freeman prepared himself to get a hittable pitch early in the count that he could put in play to bring in the winning run with one out. But after Wiley threw two out of the strike zone, Hooper gave Freeman the take sign and Freeman watched ball three.
Wiley’s fourth offering was high, and Freeman’s walk was a relatively anti-climactic end to a game that took more than four hours and included a clearing of the benches and the bullpens.
As ready as Freeman was to end the game with a swing, his mentality changed when he got ahead in the count, and he stayed composed while Wiley struggled to find the strike zone.
"You’ve just got to breathe and trust your eyes," Freeman said. "You’ve got to trust them all year, why not trust them right there. Just fortunate that he threw four balls to me and that was game."
The Wingnuts’ 10th started with a walk to Juan Richardson. He reached second base when he took off early on an attempted steal and avoided the tag after it appeared his mistake was caught.
After an intentional walk to C.J. Ziegler, the runners moved up to second and third on David Peralta’s groundout. Another intentional walk loaded the bases, and Wiley’s success in missing the zone when he tried to didn’t translate when he had to throw a strike.
"That’s some pressure right there," Hooper said. "You load the bases up like that with one out, the guy’s got to come right at you."
The Wingnuts failed to execute in a similar eighth-inning situation, when they loaded the bases with no outs but couldn’t score. Richardson was thrown out at home on an infield grounder, and Freeman’s squeeze bunt was popped up to the pitcher.
Mike Conroy fouled out to end the inning, and the benches cleared before he made it back to the dugout. The incident never turned violent, but the teams jawed at each other for about three minutes before they separated.
"(Wiley) got pretty excited and I think he was staring Mikey down," Hooper said. "I’m not positive he said something to him or anything. It’s just crazy. I was fired up over there. It’s just some crazy stuff that happened."
The Wingnuts led 5-3 in the eighth until Kansas City tied it with help from three walks by Edgar Martinez and a Conroy error in left field. But the T-Bones missed a chance to take the lead, leaving the bases loaded.
Matt Nevarez earned the win for the Wingnuts, pitching two innings and working around a two-out triple in the top of the 10th.
|Bass lf||4||1||0||0||Khoury ss||3||1||0||1|
|Milner cf||6||1||2||0||Kahllio 2b||4||1||0||0|
|Jones dh||5||0||2||1||Rdrigz dh||5||1||2||2|
|Sadler rf||5||0||2||0||Rcdsn 3b||3||2||2||0|
|Mense 1b||5||0||3||0||Ziegler 1b||3||0||0||0|
|Gdwin 3b||6||1||1||0||Peralta rf||4||0||2||1|
|Fronk 2b||4||1||1||1||Einrtsn cf||4||0||1||1|
|Duran ss||5||0||2||0||Freemn c||4||0||0||1|
|Willms c||4||1||2||1||Conroy lf||4||1||1||0|
E—Conroy (1). LOB—KC 16, Wichita 10. DP— Wichita. 2B—Goodwin (3), Duran (4). 3B—Mense (1), Conroy (2). HR—Fronk (3). SB—Bass (8), Richardson 3 (4), Einertson (2). SF—Khoury, Peralta.
HBP—by Blacksher (Bass). WP—Walters, MArtinez. PB—Williams. Umpires — home, Rich Gunton; first, Bryan Childe; third, Andrew Carroll. T —4:02. A — 4,768.