There have long been arguments on how a team should go about their business at the end of the regular season after securing a playoff berth. No matter what side of the fence an individual is on, heading into the post-season with a nine-game winning streak and also getting valuable rest for key players is about the best finish a team can ask for. The Wichita Wingnuts accomplished both tasks by finishing a four-game sweep of the Laredo Lemurs on Monday evening at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. Early runs and a stellar nine innings from the pitching staff did the trick in a 4-1 win.
After Wingnuts’ starter Celson Polanco (1-0) shut down the Lemurs in the first half inning, the offense started their night by posting a run. With two outs, David Espinosa extended his hitting streak to 17 games with a base hit. Next, Brent Clevlen also ripped a base hit to put two on for Abel Nieves. Nieves wasted no time in pushing his own hit streak to 13 by driving an RBI double into left field that put Wichita (73-27) in front 1-0.
In the third inning, it was the middle of the order coming through once again against Lemurs’ starter Josh Strawn (6-9). Clevlen followed another single by Espinosa with home run number 20 of his season, a two-run bomb to left, that widened the lead to 3-0. After his 2-2 start the center fielder momentarily pulled even with manager Kevin Hooper’s team record for batting average in a season at .373. Clevlen walked and popped out to first base in his final two at bats and ended up hitting .372 in the regular season. Before the inning concluded, Chris McClendon singled up the middle with the bases loaded to push the margin to 4-0.
The Lemurs (58-42) would score their only run of the game in the fourth inning against Polanco. With the bases full of teammates, Devin Goodwin grounded out deep in the hole at first to David Espinosa who could only make the play at first, allowing a run to come in from third. During the three innings prior to that frame and in the pair after, the big right-hander was never threatened much. He turned in six innings, scattered six hits, struck out six, and walked only one Lemurs’ hitter.
After Polanco; Daniel Bennett, Chase Johnson, and Dan Sattler combined to throw three scoreless innings and held Laredo to three base runners down the stretch. Sattler picked up his 22nd save of 2014.
Espinosa, Clevlen, and Diaz paced the Nuts with two hits each, while Ramirez and Denker accomplished the same for Laredo. The 73 wins means the team finishes with a .730 win percentage, a number never before approached in American Association history.
Game one of the Wingnuts playoff series with the Laredo Lemurs is at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday night inside Uni-Trade Stadium in Laredo, Texas.