An independent baseball season is about two months shorter than a season in affiliated ball, but that doesn't mean any less happens over the course of one.
There was a time this season when the Wingnuts were inconsistent, when they had almost no reliable pitching and failed every time they were close to breaking through in a pennant race.
The turnaround was anticipated, and even though Wichita would have liked it to have happened sooner to eliminate the stress of nightly scoreboard watching, they can't argue with the results.
The Wingnuts won their fifth straight Tuesday, beating Amarillo 11-4 in the opener of the last regular-season series at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
The Wingnuts are showing that they'd like to return home for the postseason, and Tuesday's win allowed them to maintain the lead over Gary Southshore for first place in the American Association Central.
"I felt like we have done a good job of filling our needs," Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. "I'm very comfortable with what we have right now, all the way around.
"But it's day-to-day. That last series (a sweep of Gary) doesn't mean anything if we don't come back and take care of business against Amarillo. Then we're in a position of fighting and battling. If we can continue to win, we're going to be happy. That's what we have to focus on."
As they've done most often during the winning streak, the Wingnuts succeeded in all facets on Tuesday. The acquisitions of Carlos Rivera and Mitch Einertson have added depth to the lineup while providing Wichita with two major power threats.
Einertson, who homered in the final two games of the series against Gary, had two doubles and three RBIs, giving Wichita the lead for good with a two-run double in the first. Rivera had two hits, including a solo homer in the fifth, while reaching base three times.
The emphatic offense was in support of starting pitcher Derek Blacksher, who improved to 10-0 in his career at Lawrence-Dumont. Blacksher won 11 games for the Wingnuts in 2009, their only playoff appearance to date.
"I don't see how anybody's going to beat us, honestly, with the team we've got," Blacksher said. "Offensively, defensively, we're a great team right now. It's the best team I've ever played on."
The Wingnuts figured to need plenty of offense against Amarillo which leads the league in runs and has scored 46 more than second-best Wichita.
They got it, scoring multiple runs in three innings with every starting contributing a hit, run or RBI. Edwin Bellorin drove in four runs but didn't score a run, leaving the bulk of that to Rivera, Einertson, Jorge Delgado and Josh Workman, who combined to score nine times.
Blacksher rendered Amarillo's powerful offense virtually meaningless with the help of an early big lead. A solo homer by Lee Cruz and consecutive doubles allowed in the sixth represented Blacksher's only mistakes, but he mostly carved through the Sox's order.
Blacksher made it through eight innings on 94 pitches and might have had a chance for a complete game with a less lopsided score.
"At the first I felt out of whack, honestly," Blacksher said. "But I felt like I settled in. Mechanically I felt great. I felt like I was hitting all my checkpoints and everything felt good. One thing I was excited about tonight was I was able to make the adjustment early, pitch to pitch instead of batter to batter."
The Wingnuts spent time, energy and money trying to build a complete team. Whether trial and error, luck or shrewd management is the reason, they seem to have succeeded.
"Everything is going well right now," Blacksher said. "We just have to keep playing well and roll it into the playoffs.... People are hungry every day. We had people out here on the off day. It's not only the most talented team I've played on, but the best group of guys."
Fenwick 3b3010Mojica 2b5110
White ss4110Horn ss4010
Cruz lf4111Richardson 3b4100
Alberts rf4010Rivera 1b3322
Pope dh4231Ftzgrld ph/1b1000
Fnswrth 1b4011Delgado dh5230
Butler c4011Einertson cf3233
DeLaGrza 2b4000Workman rf4221
Kain cf3000Bellorin c4014
Amarillo101 001 001 — 4 Wichita300 310 40x — 11
E—De La Garza (7). DP—Wichita 1. LOB—Amarillo 6, Wichita 6. 2B—Pope 2 (20), Farnsworth (2), Einertson 2 (4), Bellorin (21). HR—Cruz (18), Rivera (3). S—Horn (12).
Chambliss L, 1-56107723
Blacksher W, 8-8873323
Umpires—Home, Joe Pascucci; First, Derek Moos; Third, Justin Post.