The Wichita Wingnuts and Lincoln Saltdogs engaged in a wild offensive battle for the better part of four innings at Haymarket Park on Wednesday night. Eventually, the pitchers for both sides settled in and turned it over to the bullpen with the score tied. In the end, it was the Saltdogs who mustered a clutch hit in the seventh to win the series by taking the rubber match 6-5.
The game started on a good note against Lincoln starter Marquis Fleming as Brent Clevlen launched a two-out two-run home run to deep left field that made it 2-0 Wichita (56-26). However, with Justin Klipp on the hill for the Wingnuts, Lincoln (44-37) came right back with a two-run blast from their own clean-up hitter Ian Gac to tie the game.
The Wingnuts scored another pair of the second courtesy of four consecutive base knocks. Chris McMurray led off the inning with a double and moved to third on an ensuing single by Chris McClendon. Taylor Oldham drove in his 16th run of the year on a base hit before David Amberson reached on a bunt single to load the bases. Ryan Khoury followed by bouncing into a 6-4-3 double play that caused another run to cross and made it 4-2.
Lincoln would snatch away their first lead in the third frame courtesy of three hits. Klipp issued a free pass to Brian Joynt that loaded the bases following a single by Jon Gaston and double by Gac. The right-hander could not find the zone to Jeremy Hamilton either and walked him to force home a run. The next batter, Brandon Pinckney, grounded into a 4-6-3 double play that brought in the tying run from third. Before the inning ended, Mike Gilmartin added a run-scoring single to put Lincoln in front 5-4.
McClendon would reach to start the fourth inning as the Wingnuts looked to respond immediately. After the next two batters were retired, Khoury earned a free pass and then Jake Luce lined an RBI single to pull his squad even at 5-5.
That score held until the seventh inning when Daniel Bennett (5-1) allowed runners to reach the corners with one out. Joynt laced a ground ball toward the left field corner that McClendon made a diving stab of, even while the infield was drawn in. The third baseman could not make a play at either home or first, however, allowing the go-ahead to cross on the fielder’s choice.
Jhonny Montoya (3-1) held the Nuts in check in both the seventh and eighth innings until turning it over to Marshall Schuler in the final frame. Shuler walked Clevlen in a full count with two away, but that was all as he struck out Carlo Testa to end the game and record his 30th save.
Clevlen was just a triple shy of the cycle in a 3-4, two RBI, performance. McClendon joined him as the only Nut with more than one hit. David Espinosa saw his 11-game hit streak come to an end. Matt Robertson and Mike Zouzalik threw scoreless innings in relief.
The Wingnuts return home for the first time in 17 games on Friday night at 7:05 p.m. when they welcome in the Grand Prairie AirHogs to Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. LHP Frank Del Valle will be on the hill for Wichita. The game will feature a post-game fireworks show. 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.