Wichita Wingnuts

Van Skike leads Wingnuts to victory

Jason Van Skike didn’t feel any pressure to deliver a special pitching performance for the Wingnuts on Saturday at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.

That undercurrent certainly seemed feasible before he took the mound against Grand Prairie. Van Skike and his 2014 Wichita teammates received their American Association championship rings and raised a commemorative flag beyond right field.

“It was definitely exciting with the ring ceremony and all, but nothing really changes from game to game,” Van Skike said. “I went out there and just tried to focus.”

A big reason for the Wingnuts’ success last season was Van Skike’s 10-0 record at home. In his 2015 home debut, Van Skike took a no-hitter into the sixth and allowed one run over seven innings as the Wingnuts defeated Grand Prairie 7-2.

A shuffled offensive lineup backed Van Skike with 12 hits and three big innings as Wichita rebounded after its five-game winning streak ended Friday in a 3-2 loss in 10 innings to the AirHogs. Shortstop Alberto Gonzalez, who dropped from second to sixth in the order, drove in his first two runs of the season to spark the Wingnuts.

Gonzalez, Jayce Ray, Luis Hernandez, T.J. Mittelstaedt and Brent Dean each had two hits.

“I like what we did and what we saw,” said Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper, who had all nine batters in different spots from Friday’s game. “It was a good mix tonight.

“We grinded out some at-bats, got some guys over when we needed to and we got them in when we needed to. That was a good victory for us.”

Then there was Van Skike, whose first start of the season at Joplin ended after 1 1/3 innings when he was hit on the right ankle with a line drive. Van Skike took another batted ball off his right leg Saturday when Zane Chavez grounded out to start the fourth, but was unfazed, retiring 10 consecutive batters at one point.

“It really kind of felt like this was my first start,” Van Skike said. “When I got hit again, I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’

“But I’ve gotten the out both times, so I guess if that happens, they can keep hitting me.”

The Wingnuts’ offense got going once it got its second look at Grand Prairie starter Bennett Whitmore. Ray, batting leadoff for the first time, doubled to start a two-run fourth. He scored on a passed ball, and Hernandez followed him in on Mittelstaedt’s sacrifice fly.

Ray and Hernandez added RBI singles in the fifth. Then the Wingnuts knocked out Bennett with a three-run sixth. Gonzalez gave Wichita a 7-0 lead with a two-run double that bounced against the left-field wall.

Hooper said his coaching staff discussed the batting order shuffle after Friday’s loss, but didn’t address it with his players.

“Today I just kind of let it be,” Hooper said. “Sometimes it’s good for guys just to show up and see their name in a different spot. Maybe it makes you kick yourself in the tail every once in a while and pick it up a notch.”

It capped a special evening for the Wingnuts, who celebrated with five former players who returned for the ceremony — Jake Kahaulelio, Ryan Khoury, Chris McClendon, Chris McMurray and Matt Robertson. Grand Prairie first baseman Victor Diaz, who played on last year’s team, also received a ring.

“I think that’s what made it more special was seeing those guys,” Van Skike said. “We kind of got to cherish that moment together.”

G. Prairie

Wichita

ab

r

h

bi

ab

r

h

bi

Elder lf

4

0

2

0

Ray cf

4

1

2

1

Estrada ss

4

0

0

0

Hernandz 2b

4

1

2

1

Chavez c

4

1

1

0

Espinosa dh

3

0

0

0

Diaz 1b

4

1

1

0

Nester c

3

1

1

0

Hall 3b

3

0

1

0

Mittelstdt rf

3

1

2

1

Ferrante rf

4

0

2

1

Gonzalez ss

4

1

2

2

Gasporra dh

3

0

1

1

Geiger 1b

4

1

1

0

McGruder 2b

4

0

0

0

Dean lf

3

1

2

1

Jennings cf

3

0

0

0

Coughenr 3b

2

0

0

0

Totals

33

2

8

2

Totals

30

7

12

6

G. Prairie

000

000

101

2

Wichita

000

223

00x

7

E — Kuzminsky. DP— Grand Prairie 3, Wichita 2. LOB— Grand Prairie 6, Wichita 5. 2B— Chavez (4), Ray (3), Gonzalez (3). S — Esppinosa, Coughenour. SF — Mittelstaedt.

G. Prairie

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Whitmore L,0-1

5

10

7

6

1

0

Dando

2

1

0

0

1

0

Ott

1

1

0

0

1

2

Wichita

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Van Skike W,1-0

7

3

1

1

2

4

Kuzminsky

2

5

1

1

0

0

WP — Van Skike. PB — Chavez. Umpires — home, Mitch Wilson; first, Randy Wilmes; third, Steve Linton. T— 2:39. A— 3,366.

GRAND PRAIRIE AT WINGNUTS

When: 1 p.m. Sunday

Where: Lawrence-Dumont Stadium

Records: Grand Prairie 4-5, Wichita 6-2

Radio: KWME, 92.7-FM

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