The Wingnuts on Friday played baseball for the second time in five days, and their first eight innings were a futile effort to make up for lost time.
The ninth inning finally produced a payoff in the form of a one-out, two-run home run by slugger C.J. Ziegler. But the Wingnuts, after getting the go-ahead run to the plate, fell to Fargo-Moorhead 5-4 at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in a game between first-place clubs.
Thanks to an idle Monday and two rainouts against Gary SouthShore this week, a doubleheader against Gary on Wednesday represents the only Wichita games since Sunday afternoon.
At the end of the season — the Wingnuts have 16 games remaining — that kind of extended rest is probably needed but not necessarily desired. Baseball is a game of routine, and the Wingnuts had a difficult time rediscovering theirs.
It showed over an inconsistent eight innings, when the Wingnuts got plenty of baserunners against five Fargo pitchers but never a decisive hit. Fargo’s five-run fifth proved the difference.
“I don’t like it,” Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. “I don’t like doubleheaders, and it’s weird to get rained out twice in three days. Even the last week we were on the east coast, we didn’t take (batting) practice because of rain and other stuff going on on the field.
“You saw in the last inning what we’re capable of offensively. We’ve just got to get on a track of doing it consistently throughout the game.”
Inconsistency plagued the outing of Wingnuts starting pitcher Junior Guerra, but his shaky fifth inning was no different than that of many teammates. After Guerra allowed three softly-hit singles, Fargo’s first two runs scored after an errant throw home by Ziegler, Wichita’s first baseman.
With the bases loaded and a two-run Wingnuts lead, the best play for Ziegler was likely to try for an out at second or step on first base, but after a backhanded scoop, he was unable to make an accurate throw after turning his body.
“One inning cost us,” Hooper said. “We’ve got to take our outs where we can get them. He’s a dead duck, too, if we make a good throw. I just don’t think ‘Z’ was in position, footwork-wise, to make the throw.”
Nic Jackson pushed a double down the right-field line to bring in two more runs, and Jackson scored when left fielder Jared McDonald pulled up on possibly catchable fly ball hit near the line.
The rest of Guerra’s start was solid-to-excellent, as he pitched eight innings and struck out 11, running into control problems during a fourth inning in which he walked three batters before escaping a bases-loaded jam.
The patient approached nearly worked for Fargo in the fourth, but after failing to score the RedHawks swung earlier in the count in the fifth, getting each of their five hits on the third pitch or sooner.
“Try and jump on him a little bit,” Hooper said of Fargo’s strategy against Guerra. “But his stuff is so good that there wasn’t a whole lot of solid contact off him tonight. They’ve got a good lineup, too.”
The Wingnuts scored with two hits in the first inning and on a double-play in the third before going mostly silent against rookie starter Brian Ernst. He retired 10 of 11 batters before Wichita forced his exit with a pair of two-out singles in the sixth.
Just like in the fifth, when Ryan Khoury didn’t advance from second after a leadoff double, Wichita couldn’t capitalize on a scoring opportunity, even after a Fargo error loaded the bases.
Ziegler’s homer made it 5-4, and after a walk to Brent Clevlen, Abel Nieves grounded into a double play to end the game.
“We’ve left a lot of guys on bases with two outs,” Hooper said. “When we’re going good, we’re finding a way, at least once a game, to pick up some guys with two outs. We haven’t done that lately, but it’ll come.”
|Penprase ss||4||1||1||0||Khoury ss||5||0||1||0|
|Bourquin 3b||4||1||0||1||Kahaullio 2b||3||2||1||0|
|Jackson cf||4||1||1||2||Rodriguez dh||4||1||2||1|
|Rethrfrd 2b||4||0||0||0||Ziegler 1b||5||1||2||2|
|Brachold 1b||4||0||1||1||Clevlen cf||4||0||0||0|
|Alberts dh||4||0||0||0||Nieves 3b||4||0||0||0|
|Sosnoski rf||4||1||1||0||Armstrong c||4||0||2||0|
|Einertson lf||2||1||1||0||Beaird rf||3||0||1||0|
|Jennings c||2||0||0||0||McDonald lf||4||0||1||0|
|Fargo-Moorhead||000||050||000||—||5 5 1|
|Wichita||101||000||002||—||4 10 1|
E – Retherford (11), Ziegler (13). DP – Wichita 1, Fargo 2. LOB — Fargo 5, Wichita 11. 2B — Jackson (21), Brachold (18), Khoury (12), Kahaulelio (18). HR – Ziegler (24). HBP – Einertson (6) by Guerra, Kahaulelio (18) by Ernst, Kahaulelio (19) by Harris.
|Ernst W, 5-2||5 2/3||7||2||2||2||4|
|Miramontes S (1)||2/3||0||0||0||0||0|
|Guerra L, 8-4||8||5||5||2||3||11|
HBP — Einertson by Guerra (6), Kahaulelio by Ernst (5), Kahaulelio by Harris (2). WP — Ernst (6). Umpires—Home, Brian Urton; first, Mike O’Leary; third, Ben Sonntag.
T — 2:59. A — NA.