The Wingnuts aren’t playing baseball for a few days, so their plans are set for the rest of the weekend.
Wichita finished off a three-game sweep of Gary-SouthShore in the first round of the American Association playoffs with an 11-3 win on Saturday night at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
The five-game championship series, against either Winnipeg or Lincoln, starts Wednesday. The Wingnuts avoided playing Sunday or Monday and can bask in relaxation as the NFL season continues its first week.
“There is some relief,” Wingnuts outfielder Richard Prigatano said. “We’re excited that we’ve got some days off and we can watch some football. But as far as we’re concerned, we still have momentum so we’re going to keep using it and keep riding it.”
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The Wingnuts’ series win was predicated on momentum, first from Game 1 starting pitcher Danny Gutierrez, who struck out seven in seven scoreless innings. Saturday’s win was spurred by a six-run third inning in which the Wingnuts collected six hits and took advantage of two misplays.
Christian Stringer led off with a seemingly harmless fly to center that Chase Harris lost in the lights. Stringer ended up on second base with a double, hustle that seemed to energize the Wingnuts.
Two batters later, Brent Clevlen hit a fly to shallow left that Cameron Newell failed to track. Shortstop Ryan Fitzgerald ranged out, but the ball hit off his glove for an error. The next four Wingnuts batters had RBIs and Leo Vargas’ run-scoring single made it 6-0.
“He plays the game the right way and everybody does,” Wingnuts manager Pete Rose Jr. said of Stringer. “They never quit. It’s September, so you’ve got to do whatever you can. String plays hard, as do all the guys. There was no question that he wanted to be on second.”
The Wingnuts scored two more in the fifth on Prigatano’s second triple in two innings, matching his regular-season total. Prigatano added an RBI on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch in the sixth.
Wichita had 15 hits and each starter had at least one – Prigatano, Martin Medina and Brennen Salgado collected three apiece. The last four hitters – Prigatano, Salgado, Jacob Morris and Leo Vargas – combined for eight hits and eight RBIs.
“We’ve talked about it many times,” Rose said. “It’s always somebody new, it’s not the same guy. When you can do that as a team, you’ve got a chance, so we’ve got a chance.”
The Wingnuts outscored Gary 20-7 in the series. They made fewer mistakes and outclassed Gary in virtually every facet. There was one factor, though, they believed to be most important.
“I think part of it is momentum,” Prigatano said. “We really felt good coming into (the series), we’d won a bunch (six) straight. I think that was a big part of it. We had a goal and we achieved that goal.”
Find the boxscore here.