There are times when Derek Blacksher’s adrenaline can be his most important asset and his most glaring flaw. Those instances often occur in the same game.
The negative attributes of Blacksher’s energy were in effect in the first inning against Laredo. Blacksher, pitching to give the Wingnuts their first appearance in the American Association championship series, allowed four baserunners and a run in the inning.
The rest of Blacksher’s start, however, flashed the positives of his intense approach. He didn’t allow another run until the seventh, four innings after Wichita’s offense backed Blacksher with a four-run frame that propelled it to a 8-2 win over the Lemurs at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
The Wingnuts swept the best-of-five divisional series and will play Winnipeg for a chance at the first championship in their five-year existence. The best-of-five set begins Tuesday in Winnipeg.
Blacksher, the only player to participate in all three of the Wingnuts’ playoff appearances, proved the perfect pitcher to send them to their first series win. Blacksher’s enthusiasm is practically impossible to duplicate, but Wichita uses it as a foundation for the chemistry that has helped it reach this point.
"It’s awesome," Blacksher said. "The guys pick me up, they keep with me. My new name is Blackout because they say I just black out. I don’t know about that. It’s awesome. The fans are incredible, they keep us going. It’s an incredible atmosphere."
Blacksher’s success isn’t all the intangible energy he brings to the Wingnuts. He is dilligent and tireless in his preparation, and he can often be found in the team’s weight room or running sprints on the days between his starts.
When it’s his turn to pitch, Blacksher turns his cerebral nature into a passion that he exerts in a variety of ways. As he was rolling through Laredo’s lineup on Friday, he would clap against his glove or pump his fist before sprinting off the field.
The Wingnuts’ postseason veteran kneels behind the mound to pray before each start, but he is more animated through the rest of his outing. Friday, he dove off the mound to field a groundball in the fifth during a string of nine straight batters retired.
"I had a feeling about him going in," Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. "It all started with the first (inning), getting out of it with the bases loaded. That’s what it’s all about. You could feel it once we got out of that jam."
Blacksher’s domination began at the end of the first, his only difficult inning. After allowing an RBI single and then a walk that re-loaded the bases, Blacksher escaped the jam on four strikes. Three came as he overmatched Steve Pearson on a strikeout, the last on a fielder’s choice groundout.
Excepting Stephen Douglas’ homer in the eighth, Laredo didn’t manager a runner to third base. Blacksher made it through seven innings in spite of his 27-pitch first; he threw 33 total during his final three innings.
"The first inning I wasn’t letting it loose," Blacksher said. "I was a little hesitant, trying to take it back down because my blood was flowing, adrenaline was there. I went to sleep on the bus going through their order. I was so ready for this game — everybody was."
The Wingnuts’ offensive output was less flashy than their five home run showing in their Game 2 win at Laredo.
Wichita didn’t have an extra-base hit until David Peralta’s seventh-inning home run, and the four-run third was accented by two walks, two fielder’s choices that resulted in no outs, and Peralta’s bouncing two-run single.
It was enough to send the Wingnuts to their first championship series, but not enough to satiate their season-long desire for a title.
"We’re going to keep doing it, no question," Hooper said. "We’re committed right now, we’re ready to roll. We’re as prepared as we can possibly be right now, and they’re pretty motivated right now to finish this thing."
|Douglas lf||5||2||2||1||Khoury ss||5||1||3||1|
|Mojica ss||4||0||0||0||Kahaulelio 2b||4||1||0||1|
|Karr dh||4||0||2||0||Rodriguez dh||4||1||0||1|
|Allen 3b||4||0||2||1||Ziegler 1b||4||0||0||1|
|Brito 1b||3||0||0||0||Porter 3b||2||1||1||0|
|Pearson rf||4||0||0||0||Peralta rf||4||1||2||4|
|Peterson c||4||0||1||0||Mier c||4||0||0||0|
|Scelfo 2b||4||0||0||0||Conroy cf||3||1||1||0|
|Incaviglia cf||4||0||2||0||Stanley lf||3||2||2||0|
LOB—Laredo 8, Wichita 8. 2B— Allen (2). HR — Douglas (1), Peralta (2). SF — Kahaulelio. SB — Conroy (2). CS — Khoury.
|Sasaki L,0-1||2 1/3||2||4||4||4||1|
Umpires — home, Kurt Brannin; first, Joe Pascucci; second, Dixon Sturman; third, Just Post. T —2:48. A — 1,100.