Michael Klein throws 6-2/3 shutout innings in 6-0 win over Clarinda (Iowa), one night after driving in 10 runs in doubleheader sweep.
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — After several failed attempts, the Chillicothe Mudcats college-level, wood-bat baseball team last night (july 8, 2014) climbed to the top of the MINK League's North Division, even if it's on a shared basis.
Continuing their recent red-hot ways, the Mudcats rode dual-threat Coloradan Michael Klein to a 6-0 home victory over the league's defending champion, the Clarinda (Iowa) A's, at "June" Shaffer Memorial Park stadium.
The shutout triumph – its fifth this season – boosted Chillicothe's league record to 19-11, virtually equal to the idle St. Joseph Mustangs' 17-9 mark. Percentage-wise, the Mustangs have a slight edge – .654 to .633.
The Mudcats will have another 2-days break from games today and Thursday before welcoming MINK South Division contender Joplin to town for Friday and Saturday games. By then, St. Joseph will have played two more league contests at home, leaving the possibility that the Mudcats could be in first place by themselves by a game when they resume play Friday, still tied for first, or in second place by a game.
Last night in Chillicothe, the home team picked up its fifth victory in a row – all in a span of only three days – and ninth in its last 10 outings.
Having extended the team's distinction of having won at least 20 games in all 13 years of its existence when it completed its sweep of a road doubleheader against the Ozark Generals Monday, Chillicothe moved its overall mark to 22-11 last night with a methodical home thumping of Clarinda.
On the heels of a 10-RBIs night as the club's first baseman in Monday's twinbill against Ozark, righthander Klein only threw last night – and continued to do so with great effectiveness.
For the fifth time in six 2014 outings – including four starts, he did not allow any earned runs as his ERA dropped to 1.13 and his record moved to 3-0, tying for the team lead in wins with Lucas Williams of Grain Valley, Caleb Bounds of Savannah, and Robert Beltran of El Centro, Calif.
Redshirted as a freshman at Nebraska last school year and now planning to attend Iowa Western Community College this fall, Klein blanked the Iowa team on six hits over 6-2/3 innings. He walked two and hit one and struck out only one.
He left with a 4-0 lead in the top of the seventh and had his scoreless night preserved by reliever Derringer Huff, who came on in a bases-full, 2-outs spot and got out of the jam on a second-pitch come backer.
Earning a hold as he continued his outstanding performance out of the bullpen, Huff struck out two in a 1-2-3 eighth before giving way to Trenton resident and former North Central Missouri College hurler Alex Cross after the Mudcats added two more runs to their lead in the home eighth.
Cross was flawless in the non-save situation in the ninth, getting a strikeout and two fly outs to wrap up Chillicothe's division-lead-earning win.
Klein left the hill owing a big debt of gratitude to third baseman Todd Czinege.
After the first two A's batters of the game hit safely, Czinege (ZIHN-ugg-ee) easily stabbed a 1-hopper to his right and started a 5-4 double play at third and second. The Mudcats missed a triple play by about a half-step at first, in part, Czinege said, because he made a low throw to second baseman Reyn Sugai.
Five innings later, with the Mudcats having taken a 3-0 lead with two runs in the second inning on T.J. Martin's double to the gap in right-center field and Jarod Hahn's sacrifice fly in the third, Czinege rode to Klein's rescue again.
With a runner at first and one out in the Clarinda sixth, the Villanova University sophomore-to-be turned to his right again and dove as A's cleanup hitter Matt Price scorched a 1-bouncer between himself and the bag. The sizzler found its way into Czinege's leather on the backhand and stayed there, allowing the Overland Park, Kan., resident to bounce to his feet, spin and fire a strike this time to Sugai at second. Sugai pivoted and relayed the ball on to Martin at first for Chillicothe's second highlight-reel double play of the game.
The defensive help for Mudcats pitchers didn't end when Klein departed. Starting the eighth, Jeffery Butler – having just moved to second base from shortstop – dashed far to his left to get to a grounder and threw perfectly to Huff hustling over to cover first for the out. Huff did a fine job of being where he was supposed to be and then finding the base with his foot after taking Butler's throw.
Back in the first inning, Klein not only benefitted from the DP Czinege started, but also from catcher Dane Fujinaka gunning down a baserunner trying to move from first to second as a pitch in the dirt bounced off the Chillicothe receiver.
Offensively, after having double digits in hits in both Monday wins against Ozark, Chillicothe settled for nine off three Clarinda hurlers. However, the Mudcats turned those nine into a healthy six runs.
In addition to his second-inning double that stood as the game-winning hit, Martin also singled home Hahn in the sixth to make it 4-0 and reached on an error as a run scored in the seventh following Josh Ethier's pinch-hit, RBI single to right.
Joining Martin in having two hits were Derek Nakasato, who now is nine for his last 12, and Hahn, whose run batted in in the third raised his team-leading total to 19.
Clarinda's six hits were spread among six different batters. The only inning it had more than one hit was the first when its first two men singled.
The Iowans' starting and losing pitcher was Winston Lavendier, who allowed all six runs – five earned – in 6-2/3 innings.