The 2012 North Division championship of MINK League college-level, wood-bat baseball was clinched by the St. Joseph Mustangs last night when the Mustangs closed out a 7-4 home victory over Omaha Diamond Spirit a few minutes after their nearest pursuers, the Chillicothe Mudcats, fell to the visiting Nevada Griffons, 2-0.
Last night's St. Joseph win improved its league record to a sizzling 25-10, compared to Chillicothe's now 19-18 mark. With only seven more league games to play, the Mustangs could lose no more than 17 contests, meaning the Mudcats nor anyone can catch them.
The Mudcats will try to stay sharp and also secure second place in the division now, beginning with back-to-back games with third-place Clarinda, Iowa, the next two nights. Tonight at 7 p.m. at Clarinda, righthander Ryan Lavoie, with a disappointing 2-3 record and 6.84 earned run average, is due to start on the hill for Chillicothe before lefthander Jamie Bittle (2-2, 3.43 ERA) makes his last Mudcats start before heading home to Texas tomorrow night at home against Clarinda's A's. Going into the consecutive head-to-head, home-and-home meetings, Chillicothe leads the A's by 11⁄2 games in the North Division standings.
In Chillicothe last night, one night after the home team set a new team record for runs in a game with 21, Nevada starting lefthander John Rapose and hard-throwing righthander reliever Lucas Shiraldi combined to blank the Mudcats.
“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to coach?(Ryan)?Mansfield,” Chillicothe head coach?Eric Peterson said of his good friend and former coaching companion. “He got that team ready to go. They got beat down pretty good and they came back today ready to play.”
The Mudcats actually out-hit the Griffons 8-7, but couldn't get the big hit when it had several opportunities. Rapose stranded men at second and third in the third inning of a scoreless contest, and first and second in the fifth when it was a 1-0 game, and at second in the sixth when his team was up 2-0.
“He kept us off-balance,” Peterson said of Rapose. “He threw good change-ups, located well, he had a good angle to his fastball.”
In the seventh, after singles by Ricky Martinez and Izaak Silva started the inning, a forceout on the lead runner on a sacrifice bunt attempt took some of the steam out of a Chillicothe threat. Shiraldi entered at the point and immediately walked the first man he faced to load the bases with one out. However, with the tying run in scoring position he struck out the Mudcats' two hottest hitters – Taylor Johnson and Tyler Duplantis – to keep Chillicothe off the scoreboard.