Wichita Wingnuts

Andy LaRoche’s walkoff homer caps Wingnuts' 6-5 win over St. Paul

The Wingnuts’ Andy Laroche, right, is congratulated by manager Kevin Hooper after LaRoche’s game-winning homer in the bottom of the ninth beat St. Paul 6-5 on Tuesday at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
The Wingnuts’ Andy Laroche, right, is congratulated by manager Kevin Hooper after LaRoche’s game-winning homer in the bottom of the ninth beat St. Paul 6-5 on Tuesday at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. The Wichita Eagle

A week or maybe 10 days ago, Andy LaRoche probably wouldn’t have gotten a full-count fastball with the game on the line.

A hittable pitch to LaRoche, a veteran of six major-league seasons, likely would have been passed over for the opportunity to pitch to the Wingnuts’ less accomplished middle-of-the-order hitters.

But T.J. Mittelstaedt and John Nester have become virtual equals to LaRoche, and that’s why Wichita’s designated hitter got something he could handle.

LaRoche clobbered a fastball from Ryan Rodebaugh for a game-ending, bottom-of-the-ninth home run to give the Wingnuts a 6-5 win over St. Paul on Tuesday night at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.

LaRoche, the Wingnuts’ cleanup hitter, also hit a fourth-inning homer on Tuesday. When he was acquired by Wichita two weeks ago, it was to add pop to a punchless lineup. Now LaRoche is surrounded by heavy hitters.

“With T.J. and Nester, who have been crushing the ball lately, it’s awesome having those guys hitting behind me,” LaRoche said. “If a pitcher pitches around me, he’s got the two hottest hitters in our lineup to worry about. So I’m going to get some good pitches to hit.”

LaRoche, Mittelstaedt and Nester combined for nine hits – two doubles and two home runs included – in a win over Laredo on Saturday and produced a suitable encore three days later.

Mittelstaedt hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the fifth to put the Wingnuts ahead 5-4, Mittelstaedt’s second hit following a second-inning walk. Nester had three singles and LaRoche scored three times – twice on his own home runs and once on Mittelstaedt’s.

Since Aug. 16, Nester has 13 hits in 28 at-bats, raising his average to .285. Since Aug. 19, Mittelstaedt is 10 for 19 with three homers and nine RBIs. They’ve helped the Wingnuts slug it out with St. Paul, which owns a 64-23 record thanks largely to a powerful lineup, and win the first two games of a three-game series.

“We’re going to be right there with any team in this league,” LaRoche said. “There’s nobody that’s going to blow us out of the water. It’s just one of those things – it seems like every game that if (the opponent) gets one run, we’ll get two.

“It seems like we have a lot of really close games and it seems like we’re always right there in every game and able to win.”

The Wingnuts led 5-4 before St. Paul leadoff man Alonzo Harris homered for the second straight night, a solo shot in the seventh that tied the score. While the Wingnuts spent the late innings trying to manufacture a run, Wichita reliever Alex Boshers kept St. Paul from doing the same.

Over two innings, Boshers allowed two walks and a single. But with two runners on, one out, and the top of St. Paul’s order due up, Boshers struck out Harris and retired Willie Argo on a groundout to end the threat.

“Huge,” Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. “Kid just goes out there, he’s fearless and he tries pound the zone with that heavy sinker as best he can. He’s done a tremendous job for us all year.”

LaRoche could be classified as tremendous during his brief stint. Mittelstaedt and Nester have had stretches of excellence, but none more timely than their current pace that has coincided with LaRoche’s addition. They’ve given the Wingnuts a middle third that can match up with any team in the league and given Wichita viable postseason lineup.

“I’ve talked about whoever is hitting behind (LaRoche) being able to bring something, and (Mittelstaedt) had another good night tonight,” Hooper said. “Fun to watch. It’s been a lot of fun to watch here lately.”

St. Paul

Wichita

ab

r

h

bi

ab

r

h

bi

Harris cf

5

1

2

3

VanStrttn cf

3

1

2

0

Argo lf

5

1

2

1

Oldham rf

4

0

0

0

DiFazio 1b

4

0

0

0

Espinosa 1b

5

0

0

0

Songco rf

4

0

1

0

LaRoche dh

4

3

2

2

Gac dh

3

1

2

0

Mittelstdt 3b

3

2

2

3

Hanson 3b

4

0

1

0

Nester c

4

0

3

0

Paciorek c

4

1

1

1

Kain lf

3

0

1

0

Phillips ss

2

1

0

0

Vargas ss

3

0

0

1

Kaczrski 2b

3

0

1

0

Smart 2b

4

0

1

0

Totals

34

5

10

5

Totals

33

6

11

3

St. Paul

010

030

100

5

Wichita

000

230

001

6

E— Phillips, Smart. DP— Wichita 1. LOB— St. Paul 6, Wichita 9. 2B— Gac. HR — Harris (12), Argo (10), LaRoche 2 (4), Mittelstaedt (14). SB — Van Stratten. SF — Vargas.

St. Paul

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Dorado

5

7

5

5

3

4

Peacock

2

1

0

0

0

1

Rodebaugh L, 2-4

1 1/3

3

1

1

1

0

Wichita

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Brown

7

9

5

5

1

3

Boshers W, 3-2

2

1

0

0

2

2

T— 2:30. A— 3,064.

St. Paul at Wingnuts

When: 7:05 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Lawrence-Dumont Stadium

Records: St. Paul 64-23, Wingnuts 54-34

Pitchers: St. Paul, RH Robert Coe (8-3, 2.77 ERA); Wingnuts, RH Jason Van Skike (6-5, 4.52)

Radio: KWME, 92.7-FM

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