FARGO-Wichita's ace Travis Banwart was nearly unhittable as the Wingnuts topped the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks 4-1 Sunday at Newman Outdoor Field in American Association play.
It was a pitcher's duel for much of the game, as the starters combined for 19 strikeouts and only two earned runs.
Banwart (4-1) gave up three hits with zero walks and nine strikeouts through seven shutout innings to earn the win for Wichita. His 1.88 ERA is the third-lowest in the American Association.
RedHawks starter Trey McNutt (1-3) picked up the loss, giving up two earned runs on six hits and two walks with 10 strikeouts. McNutt leads the league with 52 strikeouts and Banwart has the second-most with 51.
"He kept us in the game," RedHawks manager Michael Schlact said about McNutt's performance. "When you pitch deep in the game, he did exactly what a starting pitcher is supposed to do which is keep us in the game. ... We're proud of him for that."
The RedHawks found themselves in an early 1-0 deficit when the game's leadoff hitter Logan Watkins took McNutt deep for his first home run of the season. McNutt quickly regained his composure and struck out two of the next three batters.
Neither offense got anything going over the next four innings until the top of the sixth when Abel Nieves gave Wichita a 2-0 lead with an RBI single.
McNutt walked the first batter he saw in the top of the seventh, struck out Ryne Willard for the first out and then gave up a single to Leo Vargas. McNutt's day was done with one out and runners on the corners.
"I wasn't trying to do too much out there today," McNutt said. "(Steve Zimmerman) caught a really good game today. ... They had their No. 1 guy on the mound, probably No. 1 in the league, statistically, so I knew I wasn't going to be able to afford to give up many runs."
F-M got on the board in the bottom of the eighth. Tim Colwell hit a two-out bloop single and was then brought home on a Brennan Metzger double, cutting Wichita's lead to 2-1.
Fernando Perez hit a leadoff single off Anthony Pacillo in the top of the ninth and Logan Trowbridge followed with a two-run home run pushing Wichita's lead to 4-1.
The RedHawks threatened in their half of the ninth when Keury De La Cruz hit a one-out double, but Daniel Tillman struck out the next two batters to end the game.
With the top two teams in the North Division playing each other Sunday, the RedHawks (17-17) are 2½ games out of first place. F-M has Monday off before a three-game series at home against Texas that kicks off at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
With the division's top spot within reach, Schlact wants his team to reset and be in the right mindset.
"Sometimes you can get a little caught up in the scoreboard watching and standings watching which is OK," Schlact said. "But at the same time we still have to take care of business and that's what we want to do coming into this next series."