David Amberson bats near the bottom of the Wingnuts’ order, but when he gets on base to start an inning, he can be just as dangerous — as a full-time leadoff hitter.
Amberson, a rookie with tools that intrigue and excite Wichita manager Kevin Hooper, used his best one to spur two multiple-run innings during the Wingnuts’ 10-4 win over Amarillo on Tuesday night at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
"With my speed, I really try to just pound the ball into the ground or hit line drives," Amberson said. "I ended up hitting a couple the ground and utilizing my speed."
Hooper calls Amberson a five-tool player; while Hooper waits for Amberson’s power to develop, he’s more than satisfied to let Amberson create just as much offense with his fleet feet.
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After scoring three runs in the first, Wichita went silent over the next two innings, striking out four times and allowing Amarillo starter Joe Newby to begin to settle down.
The high-bounding groundball Amberson hit to start the bottom of the fourth didn’t seem to be reversing that trend, but by the time it was fielded by Newby, the Sox infielders were yelling for him to not attempt a throw as Amberson was blazing down the line.
Newby did throw, and Amberson beat it easily. He stole second and advanced to third on a fly ball to center field, prompting the Sox, then trailing 3-1, to move the infield in. Amberson foiled that plan, too, by scoring without a throw on a grounder to shortstop by Ryan Khoury.
"Hooper told me, he said, ’I want you going on anything except a ball back to the pitcher,’ ” Amberson said. "I saw it go back (toward) the pitcher so I kind of hesitated a bit, but then I saw it sneak by him so I just left."
The Sox scored two in the fifth to cut the deficit to 5-3, and it appeared Wichita’s earlier failures to score runners from scoring position with less than two outs could prove costly.
Amberson erased that idea with another rapid trip around the bases in the sixth. He singled up the middle to start the half-inning, moved to third on a single by Jared McDonald that bounced off an infielder’s glove and rolled into shallow left-center field, then scored on Khoury’s sacrifice fly.
During Khoury’s at-bat, McDonald stole second uncontested because a throw to second base probably would have allowed Khoury to score. McDonald later scored on a throwing error by catcher Trey Ford.
"Having a guy like that, you talk about putting pressure on defenses, he’ll do that," Hooper said. "And he plays a great right field. I love having that speed out there where they can run down everything."
Amberson’s speed gives a balance to a lineup that includes power in the middle with C.J. Ziegler and John Rodriguez and veteran hitters Khoury and Jake Kahaulelio at the top.
Amberson went 2 for 4 to raise his average to .179, but he’s likely to earn more chances to break out of an early-season slump, and to make good on those opportunities, because of his unique attributes. Amberson makes chasing down fly balls in the gaps look easy because he often arrives at the spot long before the ball does.
He steals bases easily and takes extra bases on hits. Hooper sometimes walks Amberson through understanding in-game situations, but that’s more preferable to Hooper than having to teach Amberson a skill he doesn’t possess naturally.
"He does everything well," Hooper said. "I always say you can’t teach speed and you can’t defend it. (Hitting coach Jose Amado) has been working with him on just putting the ball in play. He hits the ball to shortstop, it’s going to be close.
"The tools, having that speed, we can work on the rest of the stuff. He’s young. He left college a year early and he’s got a lot of learning to do. He knows that, he’ll be the first one to tell you that. We’ve all got learning to do in this game."
|Valencia rf||3||0||1||2||Khoury ss||4||1||1||2|
|Martin cf||4||0||0||0||Kahaulelio 2b||4||2||2||2|
|Peralta lf||4||0||0||0||Rodriguez dh||5||1||3||0|
|Grossman dh||4||1||2||1||Ziegler 1b||3||1||2||0|
|Patton 1b||4||0||0||0||Perren lf||5||1||2||3|
|Jones 3b||4||1||1||0||Nieves 3b||4||0||0||0|
|Ford c||3||2||1||0||Yoo c||4||0||1||2|
|Anthonsen 2b||2||0||0||0||Amberson rf||4||2||2||0|
|Serna ss||1||0||0||1||McDonald cf||4||2||2||0|
|Amarillo||001||021||000||—||4 5 1|
|Wichita||300||202||03x||—||10 15 1|
E— Ford (4), McDonald (4). LOB— Amarillo 4, Wichita 8. DP— Amarillo 1, Wichita 1. 2B — Ford (2), Ziegler (5), McDonald (6). HR — Grossman (1), Kahaulelio (3). SF — Serna (1), Khoury (1). S — Anthonsen. SB — Amberson 2 (2), McDonald (2).
|Newby L, 0-2||5||10||7||6||2||5|
|Smith W, 2-0||6 2/3||5||4||3||3||2|
Umpires — home, Derek Ivinski; first base, Sean Hicks; third base, Art Thigpen. T — 2:54. A — 2876.