The Wichita Wingnuts will enter the all-star break with a 46-22 record, the best mark in the American Association at this juncture, after their 10-6 victory over the Amarillo Sox at Amarillo National Bank Sox Stadium on Sunday evening. The Wingnuts jumped ahead early and had to stave off many attempted comebacks from the pesky Sox in order to maintain a nine game lead in the South Division standings.
The Wingnuts were facing Sox right-hander Matt Larkins for a fourth time this season and jumped ahead of him early in the third. Jake Luce sparked the inning with a bunt single and then moved to third on a perfectly executed hit-and-run with David Amberson at the plate. Ryan Khoury ended up scoring the both of them with a triple into the right field corner to give his team a 2-0 lead. Khoury was also brought home when Chris McClendon singled on the ground through the right side to put the Nuts in front 3-0.
Amarillo (21-45) answered back with lone runs in both the third and fourth innings against Frank Del Valle. Johnny Bladel brought in the first with a single after the left-hander walked a pair earlier in the frame. Derek Perren walked to start the fourth and moved to third on a throwing error by Ryan Khoury on a groundball off the bat of Gerardo Valentin. The next batter, Jeff Farnham hit a bouncer to short that brought in Perren and made it 3-2.
Both squads would score multiple times in a high-octane fifth inning. The Wingnuts managed a pair of runs on Khoury’s ninth home run of the year, a drive to left field that put the Wingnuts back in front 5-2. However, the Sox would bring across three unearned runs in the bottom half to tie the score. With two outs, Johnny Bladel had a groundball to the right side bounce over the head of David Espinosa at first base for a single. After that, Jason Martin reached on an error by Khoury to put runners on first and second. Derek Perren followed by scoring Bladel on a single to right. Kyle Bellows proceeded to tie the game with a two-RBI single of his own, before the inning came to an end. Daniel Bennett (2-0) recorded the final out of the inning after coming in from the bullpen. Del Valle finished his outing having allowed five runs, just one earned, on three hits, although he did walk four batters.
Wichita received another boost courtesy of the long ball, this time on a two-run blast deep to left field by Chris McMurray. The shot was his fourth of the year and gave the Wingnuts a 7-5 advantage. In the bottom of the same inning, Amarillo’s Travis Weaver singled up the middle just ahead of a run-scoring double by Cory Patton. The RBI was his 35th of the season and the hit was the 999th of his career.
Not satisfied with a one run cushion, the Wingnuts proceeded to add lone runs in the final three innings off of three different Amarillo relief pitchers. In the seventh, Brent Clevlen ripped a ground rule double into the wind to right field that scored a run off of Tyler Hale. In the eighth it was Khoury racking up his fifth RBI of the game by driving in McMurray on a single against Kellen Moen. Finally, Espinosa closed the scoring with a run-scoring base hit versus Jake Feckley that gave the Wingnuts a 10-6 lead.
After Alex Hinshaw faced the minimum in a scoreless eighth inning, he gave the ball to Matt Nevarez who stranded two on board in the ninth to secure the victory.
Eight of the nine members of the Wingnuts starting lineup recorded hits in the game, with Khoury, Chris McClendon, Testa, McMurray, Luce, and Amberson each managing more than one. Khoury went 3-5 with two runs and drove in five, while McMurray was 2-5 with two RBI and two runs scored.
The Wingnuts will now have three days off as all-star festivities take place in Winnipeg on Monday and Tuesday. Wichita will be sending a league-high eight players to the game to represent the South Division. Wichita will resume play on Thursday, July 31st at 7:05 p.m. in St. Paul. 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.