For the first time in their seven-year history, the Wichita Wingnuts are champions of the American Association. With an 8-3 victory over the Lincoln Saltdogs, the Wingnuts swept the three-game championship series.
Wichita overcame an early deficit and rode behind a steady offense to capture the league title. Lincoln took a 3-0 lead heading into the bottom of the second, but the Wingnuts started to chip away with an RBI single by David Amberson that cut the score to 3-1.
The Wingnuts’ big inning came in the fourth when they grabbed the lead. After Wichita loaded the bases on a walk, an error and a single, Ryan Khoury worked a walk to trim the Wingnuts’ deficit to 3-2. Chris McClendon then struck the big blow with a two-run single to give Wichita a 4-3 lead.
Wichita’s offense kept rolling from there. Chris McMurray delivered an RBI single in the fifth and an inning later the Wingnuts added a pair more runs. David Espinosa smacked a run-scoring double and Brent Clevlen drove a run home with a sacrifice fly. Wichita tacked on one final run in the eighth on a Khoury RBI single that made the score 8-3.
Jason Van Skike earned the win in the title-clinching contest. In five innings, Van Skike allowed three runs on seven hits. He struck out one and walked three.
Van Skike and four relievers combined to pitch a shutout over the final seven innings. After the starter exited, Chris Peacock, Michael Zouzalik, Chase Johnson and Dan Sattler took care of the final four frames.
Peacock pitched the sixth and held the Saltdogs scoreless despite walking the leadoff man. In the seventh, Zouzalik allowed a one-out double, but shut the door to keep Lincoln off the board. Johnson then kept the ‘Dogs scoreless in the eighth and Sattler closed the game out with two strikeouts to cap a scoreless ninth.
With the win, the Wingnuts are American Association champions for the first time. They have reached the finals each of the last three seasons.
Photo courtesy of Meryl Loop