Murray State righthander follows shutout win in last start with seven scoreless innings Tuesday, facing only 23 batters.
By PAUL STURM, Constitution-Tribune Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Pretty much all one needs to get a sense of how Tuesday night's Chillicothe Mudcats MINK League baseball game against the visiting Clarinda A's is a look at the game stats of the respective starting pitchers.
Because of injury, Clarinda got only one out and three batters faced from its starter, Grant Borne, although he didn't yield any runs. Chillicothe, on the other hand, received a near-perfect performance from Cody Maerz, who faced only 23 batters while working seven shutout innings.
When each of the three pitchers Clarinda used to absorb the innings it didn't get from its starter was tagged for runs by the red-hot Fish, Chillicothe cruised to a 7-3 triumph at "June" Shaffer Memorial Park stadium.
Defeating the A's for a third-consecutive game and a fourth-straight time this season after losing all six meetings with the Iowans in 2013, the Mudcats (13-7, 12-7 MINK League) won for the sixth time in their last seven contests, all in league play. Clarinda, last year's league champion, tumbled to 5-12 in the loop and 10-14 overall.
The two teams again will hook up on back-to-back nights, as they did last Friday and Saturday, when Chillicothe goes to Clarinda tonight (Wednesday, June 25, 2014) for a 7 o'clock game. Lefthander Robert Beltran (2-0, 2.03 earned run average) is slated to be the Mudcats' starting pitcher.
Tuesday's Chillicothe triumph saw it score single runs in the second and fourth innings and then open some daylight with consecutive 3-runs frames in the fifth and sixth.
That was more than enough for Maerz, the MINK League pitcher of the week for Juns 16-22 who followed up his June 20 shutout of Joplin by extending his string of consecutive scoreless innings to 16.
Evening his season record at 2-2, the righthander from Murray State University mowed Clarinda down inning after inning with a minimum of effort. He retired the side in order in four of the first six innings, faced only three batters in another when catcher Dane Fujinaka gunned down a would-be base thief at second, and escaped a first-and-second spot in the first inning by getting Clarinda cleanup hitter Justin Smith to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Maerz, a Louisville, Ky., resident finished his night with a hitless seventh inning in which the 2-outs walk he issued ended a stretch of nine consecutive batters retired. Of the last 20 men he faced, Maerz retired 18 as he concluded his evening allowing only three hits, an impressive performance after he was held back from his scheduled start against Clarinda Saturday, due to a tight mid-back. Of the only 76 pitches he threw in seven innings, 52 were strikes and 10 of the 24 total non-strikes he threw came in his last inning.
While Maerz' hill performance, backed by more solid defense, was the primary feature of the Mudcats' latest victory, the offense was no idle bystander.
Chillicothe batters again limited their strikeouts, fanning only three times, and that high contact rate helped lead to 12 hits and eight runs. In the Mudcats' 3-straight wins over the A's, they've scored seven, eight, and eight runs and won by at least five runs each time.
Chillicothe has generated at least six runs in five of its last six games after being held to three or fewer in eight of its first 14 outings this season.
Leading another balanced attack Tuesday was right fielder Jarod Hahn of Truman State University. He went three for four with two runs batted in and two scored. He'd had a big game at Clarinda in last Friday's 7-2 win there and now has tied fellow outfielder Norry Galjour for the team lead in RBIs with nine.
Smacking two hits apiece last night were Michael Klein, Nick Quejado, Dane Fujinaka, and Josh Ethier, who was on base four times in five plate appearances in his debut in the leadoff spot. Ethier, most often slotted in the No. 9 spot in the batting order thus far this summer, entered the game with a spectacular, team-best .500 on-base percentage – meaning he'd reached base in half of his plate appearances. He exited having hiked it to .526 along with a now-.400 batting average which includes seven hits in 12 official at-bats in the last three games against the Iowa team.
After being four for four in Saturday's home win over Clarinda, Quejado followed that with a 2-for-4 game and a pair of RBIs.
Chillicothe broke on top in the second inning when Fujinaka singled to right field to score Hahn from third base with one out against left-hander Ryan Smith, who had come on to replace A's starter Borne, who wrenched his right ankle while going to back up third base on a first-inning hit.
In the fourth, Fujinaka singled with two outs, stole second, and scored on Ethier's grounder into left.
Hahn had a run-scoring double to the opposite field in the fifth to highlight that 3-runs inning and had one of three consecutive RBI singles by the Mudcats in the sixth, following Klein's and preceding Quejado's.
Chillicothe scored half of its eight runs in innings when its first two batters were retired, including the 3-runs sixth when the rally was started when Todd Czinege was hit by an 0-2, 2-outs pitch.