Newcomer Jake Luce helps Wichita Wingnuts romp

 

08/15/2014 10:55 PM

08/16/2014 8:02 AM

Jake Luce is finally home.

After his acquisition last month from a United League team that played only road games, Luce played one game for the Wingnuts before the team embarked on a three-week road trip. He became a vital part of Wichita’s lineup during the trip, batting .400 in 15 games.

As Wichita returned home Friday night, Luce maintained his pace, going 2 for 5 with a three-run home run that fueled an 11-4 win over Grand Prairie at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.

“It felt like a home game,” Luce said. “It’s good to have the fans cheer for you when you do something good instead of boo you. I came from a travel team in the United League, so this is only my second home game this entire year. It feels good, the fans were awesome tonight.”

Luce was signed by the Wingnuts in late July while Wichita was looking for upgrades to the offense for the upcoming playoff push. The Wingnuts, who own the American Association’s best record at 57-26, have received important contributions from Luce and fellow recent addition David Espinosa, who tripled Friday, over the last three weeks.

Espinosa’s impact was predictable, as he has posted several strong seasons in the AA during a 14-year career that includes 224 Triple-A games.

Luce began earning attention from affiliated clubs while in the United League with Brownsville, whose players drove themselves to games, but he has never played above independent ball and was initially slotted near the bottom of the order, far away from Espinosa in the middle.

But Luce has provided exceptional value as a high-energy player who offers plenty that can be measured. He is a threat on the bases and covers major ground in left field, so much that he would probably be the Wingnuts’ center fielder if former major leaguer Brent Clevlen wasn’t planted there.

And Luce can hit. Not for much power, though, before Friday, when he launched his first homer with the Wingnuts. It came after Ryan Khoury’s RBI single and put Wichita ahead 4-0. Luce, Friday’s No. 2 hitter, added a double and a run in the fifth.

“Anytime you come to a first-place team, you’re expected to win,” Luce said. “I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to come here. They already have a good outfield and they have a good lineup, so I just wanted to come in and keep my head down and do my part.

Every Wingnuts starter except Clevlen, who had an RBI groundout, scored a run – and Clevlen leads Wichita in virtually every offensive category. The Wingnuts hit for the cycle as a team in the seventh in a span of five batters, with Carlo Testa’s solo homer providing the exclamation point.

Wichita mustered more than enough offense for starting pitcher Anthony Capra, whose most recent outing wasn’t made on this continent.

Capra was essentially loaned to a team in Italy for a postseason start, allowing him to work out the kinks following a hamstring injury that forced him to miss more than a month and not disrupting a Wingnuts rotation that, with the addition of left-hander Frank Del Valle, has shined in Capra’s absence. His return, along with his 2.52 ERA, bolsters it even more.

After walking three of the first 11 batters, Capra’s outing turned for the better when it easily could have gone the other way. Capra threw six straight balls in walking Alex Nunez and falling behind Abel Nieves with one out in the third, but he was out of the inning in two pitches as Grand Prairie abandoned its patient approach.

Capra retired the next nine batters following his one-out walk and got through seven shutout innings in his first start in Wichita since June 26. Grand Prairie scored all of its runs against relievers Jared Gaynor and Matt Robertson.

“He looked great,” Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said of Capra. “Great to see him back on the mound for us, that’s for sure. He got the start in Italy to get his feet wet, which I didn’t mind because it got him a start before he came back here. He’ll be big for us down the stretch.”

Grand Prairie

Wichita

ab

r

h

bi

ab

r

h

bi

Mojica ss

5

0

0

0

Khoury ss

4

1

3

2

Nunez 2b

4

1

2

1

Luce lf

5

2

2

3

Nieves 3b

5

1

2

0

Espinosa 1b

5

1

1

0

Botts 1b

4

1

2

1

Clevlen cf

4

0

0

1

Myrow dh

4

0

0

0

Amberson cf

1

0

0

0

Gasporra dh

0

0

0

0

Testa dh

5

1

2

1

Peterson c

3

0

0

0

McMurray c

4

1

1

0

Burns rf

4

1

1

2

McClndn 3b

3

2

1

0

Carter lf

3

0

2

0

Dean dh

4

2

3

0

Baker cf

4

0

1

0

Oldham 2b

3

1

2

3

Totals

36

4

10

4

Totals

38

11

15

10

Grand Prairie

000

000

031

4 10 1

Wichita

004

012

40x

11 15 0

E — Burns (9). DP — Wichita. LOB — Grand Prairie 10, Wichita 6. 2B — Nunez (13), Nieves (16), Khoury (21), Luce (5), McMurray (18), Oldham (8). 3B — Espinosa (13). HR — Nunez (1), Burns (3), Luce (1), Testa (8). SB — Carter (4), Dean (2). CS — Khoury (5).

Grand Prairie

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Jarvis L,6-3

6 1/3

11

9

8

3

1

Whitmore

1/3

4

2

2

0

1

Harris

1 1/3

0

0

0

0

1

Wichita

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Capra W,5-2

7

4

0

0

3

7

Gaynor

1

5

3

3

1

0

Robertson

1

1

1

1

0

0

WP — Capra (1). HBP — Botts (by Capra). Umpires — home, Trent Delmont; first, David Frame; third, Bryan Childs. T — 4:46. A — 4,046.

Grand Prairie at Wingnuts

When: 7:05 p.m. Saturday

Where: Lawrence-Dumont Stadium

Records: Grand Prairie 36-47, Wingnuts 57-26

Pitchers: Grand Prairie, RH Ryan Searle (5-7, 4.35 ERA); Wingnuts, RH Tim Brown (8-4, 3.39)

Radio: KWME, 92.7-FM

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