September 23, 2017

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Nuts! Wichita wallops Winnipeg

Take 1-0 lead over Goldeyes in title rematch

FRED SOLIS PHOTO</p><p>The Goldeyes’ Mikey O’Brien pitches in relief in the third inning of Game One of the American Association championship against the Wingnuts Wednesday at Wichita.</p>

FRED SOLIS PHOTO

The Goldeyes’ Mikey O’Brien pitches in relief in the third inning of Game One of the American Association championship against the Wingnuts Wednesday at Wichita.

WICHITA, Kan. — They couldn’t exorcise all their playoff demons at once. But the Wichita Wingnuts took a big first step toward payback against the Winnipeg Goldeyes Wednesday night.

Wichita raced out to a big early lead on their way to a 12-7 victory in the opening game of the 2017 American Association championship between the two highest-scoring regular-season teams in the league. Winnipeg will look to even the best-of-five series tonight at Lawrence Dumont Stadium before it shifts back to Shaw Park for the duration beginning Saturday.

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WICHITA, Kan. — They couldn’t exorcise all their playoff demons at once. But the Wichita Wingnuts took a big first step toward payback against the Winnipeg Goldeyes Wednesday night.

 

Wichita raced out to a big early lead on their way to a 12-7 victory in the opening game of the 2017 American Association championship between the two highest-scoring regular-season teams in the league. Winnipeg will look to even the best-of-five series tonight at Lawrence Dumont Stadium before it shifts back to Shaw Park for the duration beginning Saturday.

"That’s a great team. They came out swinging. At the end of the day it’s five games. You gotta win three so one game doesn’t mean nothing," Goldeyes outfielder Reggie Abercrombie said of the loss. "This team, they’re not going to give up. So we’re going to come out here and keep grinding, keep going every day."

The Wingnuts lost the 2016 title to the Goldeyes by dropping the final two games in their home park and have the opportunity to turn the tables this year. They’re off to a good start.

Wichita’s Christian Stringer led off the bottom of the first with a double to centre, advanced to third on a grounder and came home to score on a Brent Clevlen single up the middle.

The Wingnuts really went to work in the second and scored five runs in a variety of ways — a single, two doubles, triple walk and a pair of errors by Abercrombie and Wes Darvill which proved costly and led directly to a pair of runs to make it 6-0.

Winnipeg starter Charle Rosario struggled out of the gate and didn’t make it to the third. He threw 48 pitches in his two innings of work, giving up six runs (four earned) off six hits with two walks. It was an uncharacteristic outing for Rosario, who had been dominant since joining the Goldeyes in an August trade.

The Goldeyes took advantage of a Wichita mistake to cut the deficit in half in the third. Josh Romanski hit a grounder that should have ended the inning. But a throwing error to first kept things going and allowed Mason Katz, who had been hit by a pitch to begin the frame, to score. Abercrombie then made Wichita pay when he crushed a double to deep centre that just missed leaving the park by a few inches. Two Goldeyes came home on the play.

Winnipeg kept chipping away in the fourth. David Bergin led off with a single and scored off a Darvill triple. Darvill came home off a Katz sacrifice fly to make it a one-run game.

The Wingnuts regained some breathing room with three in the fifth courtesy of a Matt Chavez RBI triple and a Richard Prigatano two-run homer. Abercrombie gave the Goldeyes a scare when he crashed hard into the outfield wall trying to chase down the ball hit by Chavez. He knocked a piece of protective padding off the wall and was down for several minutes favouring his shoulder. He ultimately stayed in the game.

"It hurts still but I’ll be alright," Abercrombie said following the game.

The Goldeyes came back with two in the sixth as Bergin and Katz both hit towering solo home runs. For Katz, it marked his first hit of the playoffs after being blanked in the previous four-and-a-half games.

"It hadn’t been good. Struggling’s a fine word to put to it," Katz said of his 0-for-11 start to the postseason. He followed up his homer with a double later in the game and hopes he’s turned the corner.

Winnipeg put the tying runs on base in the eighth but couldn’t cash them in as Wichita’s bullpen took care of business. The Wingnuts put an exclamation mark on their win when TJ Mittelstaedt hit a towering three-run homer in the bottom of the inning to finish the scoring.

Katz said falling behind early by six runs, then making a game of it, showed plenty of character.

"When we get down we can score runs in a hurry so we never feel like we’re out of it," said the Goldeyes catcher. The challenge for Winnipeg is facing a team that is built much the same way.

"This is a matchup that we’ve been saying all year that was probably the most likely to happen. We know we’re one of the only teams that can compete with them because we can score some runs," he said. "Hopefully (tonight) is just a different outcome. Definitely going home with three games to go and a 1-1 tie is a lot different than down two and no room to work with."

UP NEXT: The Goldeyes turn to Edwin Carl (9-4, 4.60 ERA in the regular-season) for Game 2, while Wichita counters with Alex Boshers (11-4, 3.72 ERA). First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.

RED-HOT ROHM: Outfielder David Rohm had two more hits for Winnipeg, giving him nine over the past three playoff games. He’s hitting .450 so far in the postseason.

TINY TURNOUT: Only 817 people were on hand for Wednesday night’s game. The Wingnuts averaged just over 3,000 during the regular-season, but drew just 1,086 last weekend for their playoff game against Gary which completed a three-game sweep. The small crowd was reminiscent of last year’s finals which struggled to break 1,000 for the final three games. Playoff baseball in September is clearly a tough draw in Kansas.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

 

Read more by Mike McIntyre .

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