Blasters Snap Losing Streak in DH Split at Wichita
The Joplin Blasters snapped a 14-game losing streak in the opening game of a doubleheader against the Wichita Wingnuts at Lawrence Dumont Stadium on Tuesday evening. Joplin's 7-4 victory was the team's first since June 24, and avoided tying the Association record for consecutive losses. The Blasters eventually split the doubleheader after a 6-2 loss to the Wingnuts in the nightcap.
Wichita scored first in the series opener, plating a run in the bottom of the second. Martin Medina hit a leadoff double, and advanced to third on a Matt Chavez flyout. The Wingnut scoring commenced with an RBI single from Richard Prigatano. Prigatano would eventually be thrown out at the plate on a fielder's choice for the second out, with another fielder's choice ending the frame.
Rookie catcher Conor Sullivan helped the Blasters get on the board in the top of the third. The Ave Maria University product clubbed a triple to center field, his first three-bagger of the season. After a walk to Alex Polston, Sullivan scored on an RBI single from Oscar Mesa to tie the game at one.
The Wingnuts wasted no time in re-taking the lead, pushing a pair of runs across in the bottom half of the third. Zack Cox started the inning by hitting a home run over the center field wall. T.J. Mittelstaedt hit a double with one out in the frame, and crossed the plate with two outs when Chavez singled. After three innings, the Blasters were faced with a 3-1 deficit.
That deficit evaporated in the top of the fifth inning. Mark Krueger began the inning with a single, bringing veteran outfielder Sean Smith to the plate. Smith tied the game by drilling his first run of the season. The Blasters were unable to get another runner on in the inning, but had tied the game at three.
Again, Wichita took the lead back in the bottom half of an inning, using three singles to go ahead. Cox and Brent Clevlen put runners on first and second with consecutive singles, which were followed by a popout. Medina gave Wichita the lead on an RBI single, but Clevlen and Medina were left on base when starter Frank Del Valle induced a flyout and struck out Prigatano.
The top of the sixth proved to be the inning where the Blasters broke through to end their lengthy losing streak. Mitch Glasser bounced a leadoff triple past the Wichita centerfielder, and scored on a subsequent double by Geraldo Valentin, evening the contest. The next hitter, Charlie Valerio, hit a grounder to the right side of the infield. Covering pitcher Jon Link missed first base, allowing Valerio to reach and putting runners on first and third. Wichita manager Pete Rose, Jr. was ejected from the game during his argument of the call, and was again ejected before the start of the second game.
Brandon Tierney then struck out, but Krueger came up with the biggest hit of his young professional career with an RBI single that would prove to be the game-winner. After Smith popped out, Sullivan drove in the third run of the inning on an RBI single of his own, giving Joplin a 6-4 advantage.
Keith Picht worked a scoreless bottom of the sixth inning, and the Blasters added to the lead in the top of the seventh. Consecutive singles by Glasser, Valentin, and Valerio brought a seventh run across, and Victor Capellan earned his second save of the season with a 1-2-3 seventh that included stellar defensive plays from Smith and Glasser.
Del Valle picked up his first victory of the season for the Blasters, while Link took the loss.
Tuesday's nightcap was not as kind to the Blasters, as the Wingnuts led from wire-to-wire in a 6-2 decision. Wichita scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning, hitting three consecutive singles before back-to-back walks delivered to Mittelstaedt and Chavez drove in a pair of runs.
Wichita's 2-0 lead was trimmed in half in the top of the third by the veteran Valentin. Glasser reached on an error with two outs in the frame, and Valentin made the Wingnuts pay with an RBI double.
The Wingnuts added two more runs in the bottom of third, again answering Blaster runs with some of their own. Chavez and Brent Dean drove in the runs with two of the three hits in the inning.
A solo home run from Chavez and a sacrifice fly from Christian Stringer supplied the final two runs of the game for the first place Wingnuts. Chavez ended the contest with three RBIs and two runs scored.
Joplin scored the final, yet inconsequential, run in the top of the seventh frame. Tierney walked to begin the frame, and went to second base on a passed ball. A two-out double by the rookie outfielder Krueger brought Tierney across the plate.
With the series tied at one game a piece, the Blasters and Wingnuts meet again at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium on Wednesday night. The Blasters send righty Carlos Fuentes to the mound with first pitch time set for 7:05 p.m.
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