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Wingnuts return to the playoffs in search of elusive championship

Wingnuts pitcher Alex Boshers is taken out of the game against the Winnipeg Goldeyes during Game 5 of the Championship series on Sept. 19, 2016.
Wingnuts pitcher Alex Boshers is taken out of the game against the Winnipeg Goldeyes during Game 5 of the Championship series on Sept. 19, 2016. Wichita Eagle

The Wingnuts, in their 10 seasons, have been good enough to be judged by their postseason exploits, which can be a Catch-22.

They reach the postseason almost every year – eight times in a decade – but have had some of their worst stretches within the randomness that is a short series. Wichita’s 2014 title remains its only, and it lost in last season’s championship series to Winnipeg.

Wichita begins its latest playoff journey on Wednesday in Gary, Ind., where the Wingnuts play the first two games of the first-round American Association series. Gary-SouthShore defeated the Wingnuts in the championship series in 2013.

“We should have more than one already and we all want another one,” said Wingnuts pitching coach Anthony Capra, a pitcher on the 2014 champion and one of three holdovers from that team. “I don’t want to compare us to the (Atlanta) Braves of the ‘90s, but in my mind that’s what I think of when I think of numbers like that.”

The Braves won 14 straight division titles but cashed in just one World Series, defeating Cleveland in 1995.

The Wingnuts don’t have quite the same ratio of misfires, but have come up short in the playoffs enough times for it to be noticeable. Winnipeg won two games at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium to wrap up the title last year after trailing 2-1 in the series.

That series started with the Wingnuts on the road, a common theme during their playoff trips. Wichita, usually afforded the freedom because of a superior record, invariably picks to begin a series away from home and return to Wichita for up to three games.

The thinking is that winning one of the first two games sets up a favorable situation with home-field advantage, but it hasn’t always worked out that way.

“To me, I’m not a big fan of it,” Capra said. “In a five-game series, I understand why they do the two (away) and then the three (at home). But it is tough going on the road to start, because if you lose that first game or if you lose the first two, you’re just up against it right away and you’ve got to bounce back.

“It kind of shows you how resilient you need to be or how you just need to get off on the right foot in the playoffs.”

In 2014, the Wingnuts won their first-round series against in four games then swept Lincoln 3-0, winning the first two games on the road and outscoring Lincoln 28-12 in the series.

It’s tough to pinpoint what went right in that series that hasn’t gone right in six other postseason trips, but the Wingnuts are trying to recapture it.

“That team was special in its own right just because of how close everyone was,” Capra said. “We lost the second game (at Laredo), but then we got home and we took the lead in the series and it just kind of went from there.”

American Association playoffs

Wednesday

Winnipeg at Lincoln, 6:45 p.m.

Wichita at Gary, 7:10 p.m.

Thursday

Winnipeg at Lincoln, 6:45 p.m.

Wichita at Gary, 7:10 p.m.

Saturday

Lincoln at Winnipeg, 6 p.m.

Gary at Wichita, 7:05 p.m.

Sunday (if necessary)

Lincoln at Winnipeg, 4 p.m.

Gary at Wichita, 5:05 p.m.

Monday (if necessary)

Lincoln at Winnipeg, 7 p.m.

Gary at Wichita, 7:05 p.m.

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