The Wichita Wingnuts entered the rubber match of a three-game series with Amarillo on Sunday evening having won or earned a split in every series up to that point in the 2014 season. However, an opportunistic Amarillo club that cashed in on the limited chances they were presented, held on late to defeat the Wingnuts 4-3 at Amarillo National Bank Sox Stadium and win the series 2-1.
The Sox (11-18) were forced to pitch reliever Matt Larkins (3-2) in a starting role for the second time this year, after appearing out of the bullpen in 11 of his first 12 appearances. After shutting out Wichita for the first two innings, the Wingnuts took the lead in the third. With two outs Ryan Khoury hit a line drive directly at the third baseman Kevin Mahoney. Mahoney had the ball bounce in and out of his glove and fall to the turf, allowing Khoury to reach on the error. Carlo Testa followed by rifling a ball on the ground at first baseman Keith Brachold, who had it bound off of his chest and down the line to allow a pair on with two out. Jake Kahaulelio ripped a clutch single through the left side to put Wichita ahead 1-0.
Amarillo answered back with a crooked number against Wingnuts starter Jon Link (3-2), who entered play with a string of five consecutive quality starts intact. Jeff Farnham led off with a single and Mahoney followed immediately with a double to put two in scoring position with nary an out. Jason Martin grounded to second base to push in the first run for the home team and tie the game. Brachold then hit a triple just out of the reach of a diving Brent Clevlen in center that rolled to the wall and put Amarillo on top 2-1. The next batter, Omar Luna, tallied his second hit of the game and drove in a third run in the frame with a single to extend the advantage to 3-1.
Corey Patton drove in what would turn out to be a huge run in the sixth inning when he hit the first offering from Link over the wall in straight-away center to put Amarillo ahead 4-1.
That run would be huge because of what the Wingnuts did in the seventh against Larkins. J.T. Wise started things with a leadoff double and then with one out David Amberson singled to left to put runners on the corners. Sox manager Bobby Brown went to the bullpen and called on righty Casey Beck. Beck allowed an RBI fielder’s choice groundout to the first batter he faced, Khoury, and a run-scoring double to left by Carlo Testa before he was pulled. Those two runs closed the book on Larkins who went 6.1 innings, allowed three runs, and gave up six hits. Andrew Brooks made his professional debut by striking out Clevlen on three pitches to end the inning with two on base and Wichita still trailing 4-3.
The duo of John Holdzkom and closer Erik Draxton shut down the Wingnuts in the eighth and ninth respectively, each stranding a runner at second base in their frame.
Khoury paced the Wichita offense with three hits, a run scored, and an RBI. Testa was the only other member of the lineup with multiple hits, finishing 2-5 with an RBI double. Link ended up throwing 8.0 innings and giving up four runs on seven hits.
The Wingnuts will travel to Laredo for a big match-up with the second place team in the South, the Laredo Lemurs, on Monday night at 7:30 p.m. LHP Anthony Capra (3-2) works for the Wingnuts against RHP Cesar Carillo (2-1) of the Lemurs. 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.