After surviving the unpredictability of ninth-inning comebacks for much of the last two weeks, the Wingnuts rediscovered a more sustainable method for victory on Sunday afternoon.
Reliable starting pitching – which has been a Wingnuts hallmark even when they trailed in the later innings – along with disruptive baserunning and strong situational hitting played equal parts in an 8-5 win over Sioux City at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, which completed a three-game sweep.
The Wingnuts were held without a hit until the fourth inning, but they took the lead for good with a five-run fifth capped by Brent Clevlen’s three-run homer. Jason Van Skike pitched seven effective innings to earn his team-best eighth win.
“That’s how baseball should be played right there,” said Wingnuts second baseman Jake Kahaulelio, who had two doubles and an RBI. “That’s what we should be doing every game instead of waiting to score. Score early, try to keep the momentum going.”
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The Wingnuts tied it 2-2 in the fourth and faced an unfamiliar situation of having many innings, instead of one or two, to complete a rally. Four of their previous eight home games were won in the bottom of the ninth, including the first two of the series on the way to extending their home winning streak to nine games.
Wichita immediately pounced on the opportunity to break it open sooner, scoring five in the fifth with multiple methods. The Wingnuts had three extra-base hits in the fifth, including Clevlen’s homer that supplemented doubles by Kahaulelio and Trevor Whyte, and they had two of their six stolen bases.
Each of the Wingnuts’ three run-scoring innings were aided by aggressive baserunning – Clevlen stole second in the fourth and moved to third when the throw bounced away. In the sixth, Brent Dean singled, stole second, and scored on Ryan Khoury’s two-out hit.
“Good to put some pressure on the defense,” Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. “It’s good to put some more guys in scoring position when we have the opportunity, and we did a good job of that today.”
The Wingnuts waited out Sioux City starter Lars Ligouri, making his Explorers debut in his first professional season. Ligouri retired the first 11 batters before Kahaulelio’s double, but Wichita adapted to a repertoire from Ligouri that depended upon location instead of overpowering pitches.
Once the Wingnuts solved Ligouri, the Sioux City lefty couldn’t limit the damage. Wichita got four straight baserunners in the fourth and saw five of six reach in the fifth – the only one who didn’t, Khoury, produced an RBI groundout.
“He was hitting his spots with all his pitches,” Kahaulelio said. “When pitchers do that, and it’s soft, you kind of have to wait for it. As a hitter, going one time through (the order), you have to make the adjustment the second time through. We finally kind of caught on to what his approach was, and we matched it.”
Sioux City never quite matched Van Skike, who became the first Wingnuts pitcher to eight wins, besting the seven reached by Jon Link and Tim Brown. Sioux City scored two in the fourth with the help of a David Amberson throwing error, but the Explorers were more often left on the brink.
Sioux City hit into three double plays and only managed one run after a leadoff double in the seventh inning, Van Skike’s last. He frequently answered bouts of ineffectiveness with more prolonged stretches of success, like when he faced one over the minimum after a fourth-inning hit-by-pitch.
“We’ve got a lot of guys like that in the rotation, it’s a nice luxury to have,” Hooper said. “He might get into trouble here and there, but it’s not going to sustain. We can get out of it with the groundball guys that we have, we just have to let the defense play behind us. He was tremendous again tonight.”
|Mesa lf||5||1||1||0||Khoury ss||5||0||1||2|
|Lang cf||3||2||2||1||McClndn 3b||3||1||0||0|
|Rosoni 1b||4||1||2||0||Kahaullo 2b||4||2||2||1|
|Perez dh||3||0||1||2||Clevlen cf||4||2||3||4|
|Barrows rf||3||0||1||0||Testa dh||3||0||1||0|
|Ramon 2b||4||1||1||0||Oldham lf||3||0||0||0|
|Mendnca 3b||3||0||1||0||Dean c||4||1||1||0|
|Usiak c||3||0||0||1||Whyte 1b||4||1||1||0|
|Escobar ss||4||0||1||0||Amberson rf||4||1||2||0|
E— Escobar (4), Amberson (3). DP— Sioux City 1, Wichita 3. LOB— Sioux City 5, Wichita 5. 2B— Lang (5), Ramon (5), Mendonca (7), Kahaulelio (22), Testa (16), Whyte (2). HR — Clevlen (8). SB — McClendon (7), Kahaulelio (12), Clevlen (11), Testa (16), Dean (1), Amberson 2 (19). SF — Perez, Mendonca.
|Van Skike W,8-2||7||7||3||2||1||4|
HBP — by Van Skike (Barrows). WP — Robertson, PB — Dean 2. Umpires—Home, Anthony Sheets; first, Dan Hoffman; third, Joe Pascucci..
T— 2:50. A— 2,023.