KU-bound catcher ties game with second 2-run homer of game in ninth. Lucas Williams gets third win, Falcon fourth save.
BOLIVAR, Mo. — T.J. Martin's second 2-run home run of the game tied the game 5-5 with no outs in the top of the ninth inning and the Chillicothe Mudcats went on to capitalize on a pair of Branson Nationals errors right after Martin's blast to pick up the go-ahead run as the Mudcats rallied for an 8-5 MINK League victory Saturday evening.
After Martin's repeat shot over the left-field fence at Southwest Baptist University's Fred Handler Field – he also went deep after an Al Robbins single with two outs in the second inning, Norry Galjour reached second on an infield error and scored when Josh Ethier’s sacrifice bunt was thrown away by relief pitcher Garrett Mays, who had taken over to begin the ninth.
Jarod Hahn's single later plated Ethier and Michael Klein's fly ball drove in Hahn to cap Chillicothe's 5-run ninth that turned looming defeat into a victory which pushed the Mudcats to within a half-game of the league's North Division lead one-third of the way through the 2014 season.
The Mudcats improved to 9-6 overall and 8-6 in the MINK League, both season bests. Branson's first-year team, which has lost all three meetings with Chillicothe – two in the final inning, dipped to 4-7 overall and in the league.
The same clubs are to meet again Sunday at 5 p.m. at the college field in Bolivar before Chillicothe returns home to host current North leader St. Joseph Monday. Should the Mudcats win tonight and St. Joseph lose to South leader Sedalia on the road, Chillicothe would take the field for Monday's game as the division leader for the first time this season.
Saturday's blasts by Kansas University-bound Martin were Chillicothe's first home runs of this season and took starting pitcher Robert Beltran off the hook.
Beltran, one of the Mudcats' best pitchers in his first three appearances, gave up three hits and two runs in the first inning, then made an error to help put Branson right back in front in the second after his battery mate's long ball.
The Nationals got a fourth run off Beltran in the third before consecutive singles by Galjour, Ethier, and Corban Williams and Hahn's fly ball inched the visitors back within 4-3 in the fifth.
Branson got a 1-out triple and a sacrifice fly in the seventh to regain a 2-runs lead – its third such margin of the game, but it would not be enough, thanks to recent high school graduate Martin.
With the last-inning comeback – its first such rally this season, Chillicothe handed the victory to Grain Valley's Lucas Williams (3-0), who threw three innings of relief.
Adam Falcon entered after the ninth-inning uprising put the Mudcats on top and earned his fourth save, retiring the Nats in order in the bottom of the ninth.
NOTES: Less than a third of the way through their schedule, Falcon is on pace to shatter the team record of eight saves set by Blake Ring in 2003 and matched by Chris Fowler the next year. … As a team, Chillicothe has five saves in 15 games, a pace for 15 or 16 which would far surpass the team-record 12 the 2012 bullpen recorded. … Lucas Williams' three wins have him positioned to challenge the team mark for wins in a season. Both Andrew Dunn in 2008 and Tyler Minto in 2009 won seven times.