The beginning of Monday’s Wingnuts’ game against Sioux Falls was a pitcher’s duel in the sense that the pitchers were the ones enduring all the damage.
Only Wichita starter Tim Brown recovered from those early wounds. Canaries right-hander Matt Wickswat was left on the mound for five innings despite showing no signs of pulling off a similar turnaround.
Four of the Wingnuts’ season-high five home runs were hit against Wickswat, and Wichita’s defense helped hasten Brown’s in-start improvement with an American Association-record six double plays as the Wingnuts won 14-4 at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
“That was awesome,” Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. “There’s no way (Wickswat) ever got comfortable. Good teams make teams pay for things.… It’s good to see. Good approaches that we talk about all the time.”
Sioux Falls scored three in the first, forcing quick action by Wichita’s offense. The Wingnuts’ response was a two-run first inning that didn’t get them the lead, but it proved a modest output since they topped it in the following two innings, then again in the sixth.
Brent Clevlen’s first-inning sacrifice fly was also tame compared to what was to come. Hooper lauded No. 3 hitter Jake Kahaulelio for not offering at a 3-1 curveball in a hitter’s count, patience that passed an RBI opportunity with the bases loaded to Brent Clevlen, who made the most of it.
On a 1-0 pitch, Clevlen lined a grand slam to the right of the batters’ eye in center field. That gave him five RBIs, a number that stood up as the game high but was threatened by Trevor Whyte, who homered twice and drove in four.
“It was a sense of urgency from inning number one,” Whyte said. “(Sioux Falls’ three-run first) got the attention of the offense really quick. We all came into the dugout after that first half-inning and we knew we had to respond quick.”
The Wingnuts achieved their most prolific power of the season in their first game without J.T. Wise, who leads the team with 12 homers and who was sold to the Texas Rangers organization earlier Monday.
The slack was picked up by some predictable players, such as Clevlen and leadoff hitter Ryan Khoury, who for the seventh time since June 16, and some not so predictable. Whyte, batting under .200 before Monday’s game, cracked two homers to double his season total.
Cody Robinson, an NCAA Division II All-American from Northeastern (Okla.) State signed to replace Wise on the roster, homered in the third and walked and scored an inning earlier. The Wingnuts’ 7-8-9 hitters, including David Amberson, combined for 13 total bases and six runs, a far cry from a recent game at Sioux City in which the final three batters went 0 for 12.
“Always a bonus, anytime you can get (production) from the bottom of the lineup like that,” Hooper said. “…More often than not, (0 for 12) is going to come back and bite us.”
Brown allowed four runs in the span of 10 batters and was helped out of his funk by a second-inning double play. Brown retired the next nine batters in a row, perhaps preventing an even more historic achievement by the Wingnuts’ defense.
In every inning in which Sioux Falls had a baserunner, Wichita turned a double play. Only the first two allowed the Wingnuts to escape real threats, but those enabled Brown to settle enough to keep from creating more trouble.
“You see a lot of teams that we play, don’t turn a lot of double plays sometimes, whereas we turn a lot of them,” Hooper said. “That’s going to keep runners off base, keep ERAs down. You know how we build this thing with our defense and pitching.”
|Tinoco rf||3||1||1||1||Khoury ss||4||3||2||2|
|Jones dh||3||1||2||0||McClendon 3b||4||1||1||1|
|Kirby-Jones 1b||4||1||1||1||Kahaulelio 2b||3||2||2||1|
|Duffy lf||4||0||1||1||Clevlen cf||4||2||3||5|
|Mendez 3b||3||0||1||0||Testa lf||5||0||4||0|
|Forney 3b||1||0||0||0||McMurray c||5||1||0||0|
|Valencia cf||4||0||3||1||Robinson dh||4||2||1||1|
|Branca ss||4||0||0||0||Whyte 1b||4||2||2||4|
|Lind 2b||3||0||2||0||Amberson rf||5||1||1||0|
|Sioux Falls||310||000||230||—||4 11 1|
|Wichita||253||103||00x||—||14 16 0|
E – Tinoco (4). DP – Wichita 5. LOB — Sioux Falls 3, Wichita 7. 2B – Tinoco (6), Kirby-Jones (8), Clevlen (19), Testa (13). 3B – Testa (7). HR – Khoury (7), Clevlen (5), Robinson (1), Whyte 2 (4). SF – Clevlen (2). SB – Khoury (19), McClendon (5), Testa (15).
|Wickswat L, 2-3||5||12||11||10||4||2|
|Brown W, 7-2||6||9||4||4||1||1|
WP – Giles (2). Umpires — Home, Joe Pascucci; 1B, Trent Delmont; 3B, JJ Garrocho.
T – 2:44. A – 2480.