Facing a situation with the bases loaded and no outs, Wichita Wingnuts manager Brent Clevlen was hoping his team could limit the damage.
With one swing of the bat, the Wingnuts did exactly that, turning their first triple play since 2008 to highlight a 10-5 win over Sioux City and complete a series sweep on Wednesday.
“When the ball was hit, I was thinking, ‘OK, we’ll take a double play for a run,’ “ Clevlen said. “But (first baseman) Abel (Nieves) made a great play and caught the guy rounding third a little too much. That was a big turn of events. We went from giving up a big inning to getting out of it with one swing of the bat.”
Goddard graduate Logan Watkins got the play started for the Wingnuts, flipping a ground ball from Sioux City’s Blake Schmit to Leo Vargas at second base for the first out. Vargas turned the double play to Nieves, who then pinpointed a throw across the diamond to tag out the runner at third, Jose Sermo, and complete the triple play.
It wasn’t surprising to Clevlen that Nieves was the one to make the heads-up play.
“He’s just one of those guys that’s always aware of the situation,” Clevlen said. “He knew to look for the base runner to see if he wanted to go home and he was able to make the throw count.”
Not only did it make for a season-best highlight, but it was a crucial play for the Wingnuts in their pursuit of the American Association playoffs.
Thanks to the three-game sweep of Sioux City, Wichita (47-29) remained 2.5 games back of the Kansas City T-Bones (49-26) for the second and final playoff spot in the South Division with 24 games remaining.
“That was a big series win for us in Sioux City,” Clevlen said. “We’re playing really good baseball right now all the way around from our defense to our bats to our pitching. We believe we have the team and the lineup to compete and make a run at this thing. We have a good chance if we keep playing like we are now.”
The Wingnuts are in the midst of a three-week road trip, due in part to the NBC World Series being played at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, and will return to Wichita on Tuesday to take on the Lincoln Saltdogs.