Good luck trying to get Wingnuts coaches and players to acknowledge they possess some mysterious hex on the Amarillo Sox this season.
But the evidence is definitely starting to mount.
Jared McDonald capped a two-run ninth inning rally with a two-out RBI single, and the Wingnuts defeated Amarillo 6-5 Sunday afternoon in a battle of American Association division leaders at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
The Wingnuts improved to 5-0 against the South-leading Sox this season, all on their home turf. One day after defeating Amarillo 7-0 on Ryan Hinson’s complete-game six-hitter, the Wingnuts snagged their second victory of the season when they trailed going to the ninth.
The bottom half of Wichita’s batting order did the damage against Amarillo closer Erik Draxton, who took the mound with an 0.86 ERA and had allowed just nine hits in 21 innings. The Wingnuts got three of their 12 hits against Draxton, the last on McDonald’s base hit to center, which scored Abel Nieves with the winning run.
“Any time you get a closer out there, you’ve got to treat it like the first inning of the game,” said McDonald, who finished 2 for 4. “That’s when they’re most susceptible. Some days they’re lights out and some days they’re like today.”
The Wingnuts scored two runs in the ninth in a 7-6 victory over Amarillo that completed a three-game series sweep on May 29. That night, Wichita surrendered a four-run lead before launching its comeback.
On Sunday, the Wingnuts found themselves in that position again after Amarillo scored three runs with two outs in the top of the eighth to take a 5-4 lead. Brandon Jones’ two-run double off Wichita closer Josh Dew put the Sox ahead.
Amarillo’s rally came after Sox manager Bobby Brown was ejected earlier in the inning for disputing a close call at first base.
That might have been the first bad omen for Amarillo. Brown was also tossed in the May 29 game the Wingnuts rallied to win.
Brown wasn’t around to see Wingnuts center fielder Brent Clevlen single to lead off the ninth for his second consecutive three-hit game. Nieves, the American Association’s batting average leader at .387, followed with his third hit, a single to left that advanced Clevlen to second.
Catcher Cole Armstrong bunted the runners to second and third, and reserve outfielder David Amberson lined a sacrifice fly to center that tied the score at 5. McDonald fell behind Draxton 0-2, but hit a sharp single up the middle and Nieves easily beat Jason Martin’s throw home for the winning run.
“It’s funny how things can reverse real quick,” Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. “We kind of had it wrapped up and then we gave up three in the eighth, which is unfortunate. But with this lineup, we’re never out of it.”
Seven Wingnuts hit safely to provide early run support for right-hander Justin Klipp. Klipp allowed three runs – one earned – in 7 1/3 innings and struck out five. Offensively, Armstrong and Colt Loehrs sandwiched RBI singles around designated hitter John Rodriguez’s two-run homer in the third.
Suddenly gone are the struggles of a four-game losing streak in which the Wingnuts scored just five runs. Since then, Wichita has won games with 13, 13 and 12 hits.
“We just went through that one stretch where we weren’t putting good at-bats together up and down through the lineup,” Clevlen said. “We’ve started to do that the last few games, and you could really see that there in the ninth. That’s great for us.”
And not so great for Amarillo, which has five more chances this month to reverse its fortune against the Wingnuts, beginning with Monday’s third game of the four-game series.
“They’re a good team,” McDonald said. “Today, it was a matter of who could last the longest. They kept coming at us and making it hard, and you’ve got to tip your hat to them for that.
“As for having somebody’s number, we’ve got to prove it the rest of the way.”
|Serna ss||5||0||2||0||Khoury ss||4||0||1||0|
|Valencia rf||4||0||0||1||Kahaulelio 2b||4||1||0||0|
|Welk lf||4||1||1||0||Rodriguez dh||4||1||1||2|
|Patton dh||4||0||0||0||Ziegler 1b||4||0||0||0|
|Grossman c||3||1||2||0||Clevlen cf||4||3||3||0|
|Gallagher 1b||4||1||2||1||Nieves 3b||4||1||3||0|
|Jones 3b||4||0||1||2||Armstrong c||3||0||1||1|
|Ford 2b||3||1||0||0||Loehrs rf||3||0||1||1|
|Martin cf||4||1||1||0||Amberson rf||0||0||0||1|
|Amarillo||002||000||030||—||5 9 2|
|Wichita||430||000||15x||—||6 12 2|
LOB— Amarillo 6, Wichita 4. 2B— Gallagher (1), Jones (13). HR – Rodriguez (8). SF – Valncia (3), Amberson (3). SB – Loehrs
|Draxton L, 2-1||2/3||3||2||2||0||0|
|Dew W, 3-1||1 1/3||1||0||0||0||2|
Umpires—Home, Pat Mclaughlin; first, Dariud Ghani; third, Dan Hoffman .
T— 2:36. A— 2291.