As skies darkened and thunder rolled in above Dickey-Stephens Park on Sunday, the Arkansas Travelers inched toward another loss.
Trailing the Wichita Wind Surge 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth inning, the hosts were headed for their fifth defeat in six games.
Enter Jake Scheiner. With one out and runners on first and second, the Travelers' 26-year old shortstop launched a 1-0 slider from Wichita right-hander Alex Phillips (1-4) well beyond the left-center wall, his walk-off blast scoring Zach DeLoach and Josh Morgan and flipping the script of the series finale at the end of a losing week to give Arkansas a 7-5 victory.
"We may not have started out the best every game this weekend," Scheiner said. "But you can never count us out. I think we're really good about that."
Scheiner's 12th home run of the season traveled 426 feet and sealed the Travs' second come-from-behind win of the series and took the hosts to three games above .500 (37-34).
Outfielder Stephen Wrenn went 2 for 4 and drove in two runs, combining with Scheiner to overcome a Wind Surge offense that received hits from eight of its nine position players. Travelers closer Darin Gillies (2-0) earned the win after tossing a 1-2-3 ninth.
The Travs dropped the first three games of the six-game set earlier this week, then fell again Saturday in a 5-4 loss, and for the first eight innings Sunday appeared headed for a similar outcome.
Travs starter Tyler Herb allowed 5 runs on 11 hits in 6 innings, digging the Travelers' hole after Austin Shenton handed the Travs the lead with a first-inning opposite field solo homer. The Travelers pushed three runs across on Wichita righty Jordan Balazovic over his 6 innings, then scraped an eighth-inning run off of Mitchell Osnowitz to set up Scheiner's game-winning shot.
"I think our at bats had been good," Scheiner said. "It's just we haven't had the results."
The Travs' recent woes mirrored Scheiner's own struggles of late. Entering Sunday, he had been held hitless in four of his last five games and was riding a 2 for 14 skid at the plate. In the finale, Scheiner's fifth-inning infield single drove in the Travelers' third run of the game, and he left no doubt about the outcome when he made contact with Phillip's breaking ball in the ninth.
"I've had a little bit of a rough patch the last few weeks," Scheiner said. "I just stuck to what I've been doing. Baseball is a bad game -- you can do everything right and go into slumps while doing everything right. Being in the moment and not letting it get too big, that's how you get out of that."
Shenton's lead-off home run shattered a 251/3 inning scoreless innings streak that Balazovic carried into his start in North Little Rock.
The Travs' early lead was short lived as the Wind Surge scored a pair on RBI singles from Aaron Whitefield and Wilbis Santiago in the top of the second. Wrenn drove in Keegan McGovern with a liner to right field to knot the game in the bottom half, but Wichita regained the advantage in the third inning on run-scoring hits by Ernie De La Trinidad and D.J. Burt to lead 4-2.
The game stood 4-3 in the top of the sixth when Herb returned to the mound with 81 pitches to his count. He surrendered back-to-back singles to open the inning, and the Wind Surge grew the lead to 5-3 on Roy Morales' sacrifice fly. The Wichita catcher had 11 hits during the series.
Travs' relievers Reid Morgan and Jack Anderson tossed scoreless innings out of the bullpen, and Osnowitz matched them with a scoreless seventh. Osnowitz paid for his lead-off walk to McGovern in the eighth when Wrenn drove in his second run with another RBI single that cut the gap to 5-4.
Wrenn's diving catch in center field closed a perfect ninth inning from Gillies, and after one-out singles from DeLoach and Morgan, Scheiner stepped up and sent the Travs into looming trip to face the Springfield Cardinals with a walk-off win.
"It was a long day," he said. "It was a long week. We came off a four-hour game last night. It was scorching today. But that's when the Travs thrive the most is in these conditions."
Morales, c2111Shenton, 3b4111
Palacios, ss5000DeLoach, lf4210
De La Trin., lf5111Morgan, dh5110
Steer, 3b4010Scheiner, ss4124
Cabbage, rf4010McGovern, rf3110
Burt, 2b4121Bins, c3100
Whitefield, cf3111Rizzo, 2b4020
Santiago, dh3121Wrenn, cf4022
Hamilton, 1b4020Hnyman, 1b3000
Wichita022 001 000 -- 5 11 0
Arkansas110 010 013 -- 7 10 0
DP -- Arkansas 2. LOB -- Wichita 7, Arkansas 8. 2B -- Santiago. 3B -- Burt. HR -- Shenton (1), Scheiner (12). SF -- Morales. SB -- Burt. CS -- Hamilton, Rizzo.
Phillips L, 1-4143301
Gillies W, 2-0100001
WP -- Balazovic, Herb 2. HBP -- by Herb (Whitefield). Umpires -- Home: Bruner; First: Acosta; Third: Rains. Time -- 3:04. Attendance -- 2,533