The Wingnuts’ 9-6 record on the road while the National Baseball Congress World Series was occupying Lawrence-Dumont Stadium was their best in five seasons on that annual trip, but it has lost significance over the last two days.
Wichita has lost back-to-back home games to El Paso after falling 8-5 to the Diablos on Wednesday night. The Wingnuts’ offense came alive after it faced an early five-run deficit, but Wichita’s ace couldn’t consistently keep the game within striking distance.
"We’ve got to get better," Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. "We’ve got to get a lot better if we plan on winning this thing. They’ve got to make some adjustments as players. They’re the ones out there playing the game. They should know that we’re good enough to win any given night, but we’ve got to go out and do it."
Much of starter Josh Lowey’s problems was attributable to the defense of novice left fielder Wilberto Ortiz, who misplayed three fly balls that all turned into RBI doubles.
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Lowey leads the league with 13 wins and looked to extend his single-season franchise record, but Ortiz did him no favors by failing to even get within range of fly balls that, off the bat, appeared catchable.
The first one, hit by Reid Fronk, bounced past Ortiz and allowed El Paso’s first run to score. Mitch Einertson followed with what appeared to be a lazy fly ball to shallow left. But Ortiz failed to make a move on the ball, and he didn’t get close enough to it to prevent Einertson from cruising into second.
It wasn’t clear if Ortiz, primarily an infielder, was unable to see the ball or just misjudged it. But on a shallow fly ball caught by shortstop Ryan Khoury in the fourth, Ortiz looked up and appeared to indicate that he couldn’t see the ball.
Ortiz’s adventures weren’t over. He misplayed another fly ball into a double and ran into the wall on a home run by Daniel Nelson in the sixth, staying down briefly before remaining in the game. He was pinch-hit for by Jared McDonald in the bottom of the eighth.
"I don’t know what was going on," Hooper said. "I think he couldn’t get to them so he tried to back off after that first one bounced over his head. We’ve got to be a little more aggressive than we were. He was easing up on those balls a little too much."
Those misplays helped account for four of El Paso’s first five runs, and the listlessness that plagued the Wingnuts in a shutout defeat on Tuesday reappeared at the beginning of Wednesday’s game.
The Wingnuts left the bases loaded in the first, failing to score despite a single and three walks. They went down quietly the next two innings but ignited in the fourth on a one-out double by David Peralta.
Jessie Mier followed with an RBI double and Ortiz offset one of his mistakes by delivering an RBI single. Ryan Khoury’s sacrifice fly made it 5-3, and the Wingnuts pulled to within a run on Peralta’s RBI single in the fifth.
"We got it going offensively and we put up five," Hooper said. "Had some more opportunities, though. It was pretty frustrating."
Lowey couldn’t keep it there. He allowed a two-run homer to Daniel Nelson in the sixth. Nelson wore out multiple Wingnuts pitchers, going 4 for 5 with two extra-base hits.
The Wingnuts scored a run in the sixth, but Jake Kahaulelio was stranded after a one-out RBI double. He also was left on second in the third, and the Wingnuts missed a chance to score more in the fourth by leaving Conroy on third base.
The Wingnuts lead Kansas City by three games in the American Association Central over Kansas City but El Paso is making a playoff push of its own. The Diablos started 7-27 before firing their manager and turning over much of their roster. Since then, they’re 33-13 and within 3 1/2 games of a postseason spot.
|Gonzalez ss||4||1||1||0||Khoury ss||3||1||1||1|
|Fronk 3b||4||1||2||2||Kahaulelio 2b||4||0||2||1|
|Einertson cf||5||0||2||1||Porter dh||3||1||1||0|
|Dotel rf||4||1||1||0||Batista 3b||5||0||1||0|
|Valenzuela 1b||5||0||3||1||Ziegler 1b||4||0||0||0|
|Acey dh||4||1||1||0||Peralta rf||4||1||2||1|
|Chavez c||3||2||1||0||Mier c||4||1||2||1|
|Nelson 2b||5||1||4||2||Ortiz lf||4||1||1||1|
|Muse lf||5||1||1||1||Conroy cf||4||0||1||0|
|El Paso||220||102||001||—||8 16 1|
|Wichita||000||311||000||—||5 11 1|
E— Dotel (7), Mier (1). LOB— El Paso 10, Wichita 9. DP— El Paso 2, Wichita 1. 2B— Fronk (15), Einertson (10), Valenzuela (4), Nelson (6), Muse (15), Kahaulelio (12), Porter (14), Peralta (25), Mier (8). HR — Nelson (2 (18). HBP — Dotel (3) by Dew, Acey (3) by Dotel. SF — Khoury (9). SB — Gonzalez (27), Dotel (18), Khoury (28). CS — Gonzalez (12), Khoury (7).
|Casillas W, 5-0||5||8||4||4||4||4|
|Prado S (15)||1||1||0||0||1||0|
|Lowey L, 13-4||5 2/3||13||7||7||3||3|
WP — Walters (10), PB — Mier. HBP — by Dew (Dotel, Acey).
Umpires — home, Dan Hoffman; first, Joe Pascucci; third, Justin Post. T — 3:29. A — 2,688.