RailCats fall in home opener
By Michael Osipoff 713-2485 or email@example.com Twitter: @MichaelOsipoff May 22, 2014 7:56PM
Gary, 5/22/14--Zac Mitchell, slides into second base, for a double, beating out a tag by Wingnuts' Ryan Khoury. | Vincent D. Johnson/for Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 24, 2014 8:11AM
GARY — After celebrating their 2013 American Association championship with various pre-game events, the RailCats began their 2014 home season with a loss.
In a rematch of last season’s title series, they dropped a 5-3 decision to Wichita on Thursday night at the Steel Yard, nearly summoning a vintage comeback.
“You’re not going to find a tougher opponent at any level outside the major leagues than the Wingnuts,” RailCats manager Greg Tagert said before the game. “We have the greatest respect for them. I don’t want to disrespect any other opponent, but I’m not sure you want to have your home opener against the Wingnuts. It’ll be a good test for us.”
Wichita (6-2) took a 1-0 lead when Mike Hernandez drilled a homer to left on the first pitch of the fifth inning.
The Wingnuts added three runs in the sixth. They strung together four straight one-out hits to knock out RailCats starter Stephen Hiscock, as the right-hander wound up allowing four runs on seven hits, with nine strikeouts and no walks.
Wichita starter Tim Brown went six scoreless innings, allowing six hits with three strikeouts and no walks.
The RailCats — who scored all of their runs in the ninth, and had the potential tying run on first base with one out — left 11 runners on base, including seven in scoring position. Six of those baserunners came in the first five innings, including five in scoring position. They RailCats went 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
The RailCats (3-4) had opened the season by going 3-3 on the road, winning three straight games before Wednesday’s off day. Tagert said the staff was still in the process of evaluating the team. And even though he didn’t want to make any “rash” decisions, the series against Wichita — which won the Central Division in each of the RailCats’ first three seasons in the American Association, before shifting to the South this season — could prove instructive.
“It’s going to be an evolving process, as we learn the ballclub and learn our capabilities,” Tagert said.
Note: Stephen Bougher (1-0, 1.50 ERA) is scheduled to start for the RailCats on Friday night against Wichita, with the Wingnuts countering with fellow right-hander Justin Klipp (1-0, 0-0).