The Wichita Wingnuts reached the midway point of the 2015 regular season in style on Tuesday night at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. A hit by pitch and an error led to Luis Hernandez coming through with a pinch-hit single to win the game and bring a 6-3 homestand to its conclusion. The game-winning hit was the second of the homestand for the former Major Leaguer. The 4-3 win over Joplin inched the Wingnuts within one game of the South Division leader and to within a half-game of the wild card.
For the third straight game, the Wingnuts (28-22) fell behind after the top of the first. Alex Koronis, making his second start for Wichita, hit Oscar Mesa with one out. Yasser Gomez earned a walk to push a runner into scoring position. Koronis was able to get Carlos Ramirez to pop out in foul territory, but could not escape the inning. Jake Taylor lined a single up the middle to score Mesa and make it 1-0 Blasters.
Wichita responded quickly in the bottom of the inning to take a lead of their own against Matt Parish. Jayce Ray reached on an infield single which was followed by David Espinosa’s first pitch base hit through the right side. The next two batters were retired, leaving it up to Starlin Rodriguez to extend the inning. The second baseman was up to the task as he tied the game with an infield single. Matt Padgett followed by banging a deep fly ball into the right field corner that cleared the bases and moved the Wingnuts ahead 3-1.
Jesus Solorzano evened the score in the second with his fifth home run of the year, a two-run shot to left. That was the final damage that Koronis would allow, working 5.0 innings and allowing three runs on three hits.
Parish also settled in nicely, giving up just the three runs on seven hits over 6.0 innings. Neither team could muster any offense against the bullpens through nine innings. Joplin (27-19) finished hitless over the final seven innings despite having five runners reach on walks or hit by pitches. The Wingnuts had their own hitless streak that lasted five innings, but had six runners on base via other means.
Rodriguez started the bottom of the tenth by getting hit with a pitch from right-hander Sam Agnew-Weiland (3-1). A pickoff attempt at first went off the tip of Gomez’s glove and rolled down the right field line into the Blasters’ bullpen. By the time a defender tracked it down, Rodriguez had already motored to third. Padgett struck out swinging which led to an intentional walk of John Nester. Kevin Hooper called on Luis Hernandez to pinch-hit for Leo Vargas with runners on the corners. Hernandez chopped the first pitch high over the head of Omar Luna at third base to score the winning run.
Dakota Watts (3-0) worked 2.0 scoreless innings in relief to pick up the win. The Wingnuts bullpen has not allowed a run in their last 15.1 innings.
Wichita travels to Grand Prairie, Texas to begin a four-game series with the AirHogs on Wednesday night at 7:05 p.m. RHP Omar Bencomo (4-0) will throw for the Wingnuts in a match-up with RHP T.J. Bozeman of Grand Prairie. For information on season tickets, group outings, and party packages, call the Wingnuts’ main office at (316) 264-NUTS, or visit the Wingnuts’ official website at www.wichitawingnuts.com.