Taylor Oldham lugs with him a bag full of every piece of equipment a fielder could need – catcher’s gear and gloves for every position. He’s always ready to fill in wherever the Wingnuts need him.
Now that Oldham is beginning to get regular at-bats, he has no use for any of that equipment, because he’s been in the lineup most recently as Wichita’s designated hitter. All he needs for that is his bat.
That particular piece of equipment served Oldham well on Friday, as he drove in three runs in the Wingnuts’ 10-4 win over Amarillo at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. Ten Wichita batters had at least one of the Wingnuts’ 20 hits.
Oldham would have usually been the 10th. He has served as the Wingnuts’ only utility player for most of the season, but when designated hitter J.T. Wise was sold this week to the Texas Rangers organization, Oldham was inserted into the lineup.
“I guess I just have the ability to play pretty much every position and play it pretty well, or at least solid,” Oldham said. “That just seems like the way to help the team win, I guess.”
Oldham has played 115 games since debuting as a professional in 2012, and he’s played at least four games at every position except catcher, spending the most time at third base. He has never received 200 at-bats in a season.
During his first season, when he played for two teams in the independent Frontier League, Oldham didn’t thrive at being a jack of all trades, batting .188. Last season in the Pecos League, though, Oldham hit .379 in 114 at-bats to catch the Wingnuts’ attention this offseason.
Oldham’s name has been announced often as a defensive replacement, putting to use his many gloves. His bat wasn’t as quick to come around, as he was batting .232 before Friday’s game, but he contributed to Wichita’s early output against the Sox.
It was fitting, perhaps, that the Wingnuts’ most anonymous player once again blended in as part of a balanced offensive attack.
“We’ve got confidence in him, that’s why he’s been here all year long,” Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. “…He’s come up with some big at-bats for us this year, and hopefully he can keep doing that.”
Oldham drove in his first run with a sacrifice fly in the top of the second, when the Wingnuts took the lead for good by scoring two runs. He helped them add three more an inning later with a two-run double, and he walked during Wichita’s two-run sixth.
The Wingnuts have gotten most of their production this season from the top half of the order, which has become even more prolific lately with four players batting .325 or better, but they’re liable for nights like Friday when the bottom of the order is contributing, too.
Friday, No. 8 hitter Trevor Whyte, who bats one spot behind Oldham, matched Oldham’s three RBI, and David Amberson offered a third-inning single. Their offense allowed innings to keep going, and Wichita sent six men or more to the plate in four of the eight times it batted.
“It’s good to contribute,” Oldham said. “A lot of the games, the top of the lineup is always doing it, so it’s always nice when the bottom of the lineup can contribute and drive in runs.”
Jon Link improved to 7-2 for the Wingnuts, scattering nine hits over seven innings. Amarillo had chances to get to Link for more than the single runs it managed in the first, fourth, and sixth innings, but the Sox stranded eight while he was pitching.
The Wingnuts, meanwhile, didn’t let up as easily, finishing the Sox early and putting last-place Amarillo 18 games back of them in the American Association South.
“When you get up on a team like that, you just want to finish it out and really just come at them,” Oldham said. “You don’t want to let up. We kept scoring runs, which was good. We kept putting the ball in play. …When you get up on a team (early), you want to win.”Wichita 10, Amarillo 4
|Patton rf, p||5||0||2||0||Khoury ss||5||0||2||0|
|Martin cf||5||1||3||0||McClendon 3b||5||1||3||0|
|Perren lf||4||0||0||0||Kahaulelio 2b||5||0||1||0|
|Pinckney 2b||4||0||1||1||Clevlen cf||5||3||2||1|
|Weaver 2b||1||0||0||0||Testa lf||4||4||3||2|
|Weik 1b, rf||5||2||2||2||McMurray c||4||1||3||1|
|Nichols 1b, dh||4||1||2||0||Dean c, ph||1||0||1||0|
|Bellows ss||4||0||1||0||Oldham dh||3||1||1||3|
|Mahoney 3b||3||0||1||1||Whyte 1b||4||0||3||3|
|Farnham c||2||0||0||0||Amberson rf||5||0||1||0|
E— Wichita 1. DP— Amarillo 2. LOB— Amarillo 10, Wichita 11. 2B— Martin 2, Clevlen, McMurray, Oldham. 3B —Testa. HR — Weik 2, Clevlen. SF — Oldham.
Umpires—Home, Randy Wilmes; first, Sean Hicks; third, Marty Bauer.
T— 3:00. A— 3,611.