Wichita Wingnuts

Wingnuts rebound from road-trip blues, prepare for playoffs

Matt Chavez, left, who leads the Wingnuts with 17 home runs, has been out of the lineup since Aug. 15 but is expected to return before the playoffs.
Matt Chavez, left, who leads the Wingnuts with 17 home runs, has been out of the lineup since Aug. 15 but is expected to return before the playoffs. Correspondent

The Wingnuts lost nine games in a row last month and all it did was delay the inevitable.

Wichita was sailing toward its seventh straight division championship and another American Association playoff appearance. A long and uncharacteristic losing streak just put off the celebration.

The Wingnuts clinched the South division on Tuesday with two weeks to play in the regular season. They begin a 10-game homestand Friday to wrap up the regular season. They’ve faced more uncertainties during the second half than their clinching date but emerged with another postseason spot, their ninth in 10 seasons.

“When you can do it earlier than later it’s always a plus,” Wingnuts manager Pete Rose Jr. said. “They deserved it. They worked hard all summer and it’s great to be able to do it for these guys. It’s a tribute to the guys. They really played hard and they did it from the start.”

Every other team in the South Division has a losing record, and the Wingnuts’ division lead hasn’t been threatened. The nine-game losing streak was a headache for its longevity and because most of it happened while the team was on the road for more than two weeks during the National Baseball Congress World Series.

Four teams defeated the Wingnuts during the streak, including sweeps by Texas and Lincoln. Wichita lost five games by one run and struggled to find an effective bullpen combination.

“It’s baseball,” Rose said. “The way we were losing games, it’s like you’ve got to be kidding me. But it’s baseball. It happens, and we rode it out and got back on track and ended up clinching. I don’t think you’ve got to address it. Guys are still playing hard, guys are still competing. With how many games you play on a yearly basis, it’s going to happen.”

The Wingnuts have survived through injuries and changes within its pitching staff, which was so thin for a stretch this month that they were using position players on the mound.

After the all-star break, the Wingnuts released leadoff man Harrison Kain, who played in the league’s all-star game, and they’ve been hampered by time missed from middle-of-the-order hitters Brent Clevlen and Matt Chavez.

Neither was a long-term situation, and Chavez should be returning from injury in the final week of the season. But they were obstacles that had to be cleared even though the Wingnuts never seemed in danger of any real trouble.

“It’s been a little bit different but we’ve kind of just stayed the same,” Rose said. “You’ve got to do that over the course of the season. They’ve stuck it out, they’ve stayed the course. We’ve added some new pieces and everybody is still doing what we need.”

Texas at Wingnuts

  • When: 7:05 p.m. Friday
  • Where: Lawrence-Dumont Stadium
  • Records: Texas 37-51, Wingnuts 53-35
  • Radio: KGSO, 1410-AM, 93.9-FM