The Wingnuts are making the rest of the American Association appear inferior.
Some of that is only natural. Two of the Wingnuts’ South Division opponents, Salina and Texas, are overmatched almost every time the teams share the field. But not all of Wichita’s success has come from feasting on divisional foes.
The Wingnuts have built the league’s best record – 30-12 through Saturday – through equal-opportunity dominance. They’re understandably great against Salina, which has a 4-37 record, but match many of their impressive statistics when playing against everyone else.
Wichita begins a three-game home series on Monday night against Winnipeg, one of the few teams which has found success against the Wingnuts. Winnipeg defeated Wichita in the league championship series last year and won two of three at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium earlier this season.
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“We don’t make the schedule,” Wingnuts manager Pete Rose Jr. said. “The only thing we can do is, wherever we’re expected to play, we show up and play. When we showed up to Salina – we’re the only team to go to Salina – we didn’t give at-bats away, we played good defense, we threw strikes.
“I attribute it to the guys. They want to come to the ballpark and they want to play hard every day.”
The Wingnuts have an 11-1 record against Salina and 7-3 against Texas. Salina, which plays mostly road games, was a late addition to the league after Laredo dropped out just before the season. Laredo won the league title two years ago and made the South perhaps the most competitive division.
Against all other opponents, including Cleburne, which has a 20-22 record in the South, the Wingnuts have a .320 batting average while scoring more than seven runs per game. They’ve won games 19-4, 15-2, 11-6, 15-3, 12-4 and 13-3.
The Wingnuts lost to Salina in May before winning 10 straight, and they’ve won six of the last seven against Texas. They’ve learned to assume nothing.
“Sometimes you tend to play down to your competition,” Wingnuts second baseman Christian Stringer said. “It just shows that everybody comes to the field ready to play every day and leave everything out there. We don’t take it for granted who we’re playing. (Texas) has a pitcher (James Russell) who was in the big leagues last year, and we’ve done well against him.”
The Wingnuts are quick to credit Rose for that mental edge, but he deflects praise back to the players. His clubhouse is loose and laid-back, which has turned the Wingnuts relentless – they’ve won 19 games by at least four runs.
Seven of the eight teams in opposing divisions have winning records, but they haven’t had to play the Wingnuts much. Meanwhile, Wichita has surged to the league lead in runs, hits, walks, average, on-base percentage and stolen bases largely against teams beneath their level.
But that might be every team.
“I can’t explain what we’re doing, we just do it,” Rose said. “They deserve all the credit. They’re going out taking the at-bats, they’re going out making the plays, they’re going out making the pitches. They come to the ballpark ready to go regardless of who we’re playing. It doesn’t matter where it is, we’ll throw it out there and see what happens.”
Winnipeg at Wingnuts
- When: 7:05 p.m. Monday
- Where: Lawrence-Dumont Stadium
- Records: Winnipeg 22-20, Wingnuts 30-12
- Radio: KGSO, 1410-AM, 93.9-FM