The Wichita Wingnuts became the independent team with the highest winning percentage since 2010 on Sunday afternoon. One day later, some of the individuals that were integral to them achieving the level of success that they did were honored by the American Association. After a league-wide vote from managers and media, Chris McMurray, Abel Nieves, and Brent Clevlen were named post-season all-stars. In addition, shortstop Ryan Khoury was honored as the Defensive Player of the Year.
McMurray has made a huge impact behind home plate in his first year with the organization. He has guided the pitching staff to the league’s best team ERA and also provided clutch hitting when the team has needed it the most. He is hitting .260 with seven home runs and 60 RBI and went on a ten game hit streak in late June. Defensively, nobody in the league was better. The backstop threw out 30% of attempted base stealers and has been charged with just one passed ball in 72 games behind the dish. He also represented the South in the mid-season All-Star Game.
Nieves, the 2013 league batting champion while with the Wingnuts, was honored as the best third baseman in the circuit for the second straight year. He was acquired from the Grand Prairie AirHogs in an August 19th trade and has been in the lineup as an everyday player since. Since joining the Nuts, Nieves has at least one hit in each of his 12 games. For the season, he boasts a batting average of .354, which is tied for the fourth best mark in the league. He is also fourth in on-base percentage. Nieves started at the hot corner for the South squad in the All-Star game.
Clevlen, a former Detroit Tigers and Atlanta Braves outfielder, leads the league entering play with a .370 batting average. That mark is just three points shy of manager Kevin Hooper’s franchise record average of .373 in 2008. He is currently among the top five players in the league in such offensive categories as extra-base-hits, total bases, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, RBI, and home runs. He broke the Wingnuts’ single –season record for doubles in Sunday’s contest with his 33rd of the year. The native of Austin, Texas was selected to represent the South in the American Association all-star game earlier this year and was honored with a post-season all-star selection in 2013 as well.
Khoury, a slick-fielding shortstop, was also named as the best defensive player in 2012, his first season with the Wingnuts. The shortstop has started in all but two of his 300 games with the organization. The 30-year old from Utah has committed just 12 errors in 498 chances this year. Khoury’s fielding percentage of .976 is three points higher than the .973 percentage that Hooper put together in 2008. He has also enjoyed one of the best seasons at the plate in his nine-year career. His 12 home runs are a career high and a nice compliment to his .319 batting average and 61 RBI. Those numbers earned him a place as the South squad’s designated hitter in the All-Star Game.
The Wingnuts will close out the regular season tonight at 5:05 p.m. They will begin a first round playoff series with the Laredo Lemurs at Uni-Trade Stadium on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m.