Three unearned runs without aid of a hit in seventh and final inning lets Mudcats win nightcap of MINK League doubleheader Thursday.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — The Chillicothe Mudcats did not get what they wanted in their MINK League wood-bat baseball doubleheader battle with the St. Joseph Mustangs, but they avoided what they absolutely could not afford.
A game behind St. Joseph in the MINK League's North Division standings entering Thursday night's play at Phil Welch Stadium, Chillicothe exited still only a game behind after salvaging the second game 7-4 with a 3-runs final inning. That followed a Mustangs 5-3 comeback victory in game one.
While the visiting Mudcats were thankful to get the split after not only losing the first game, but blowing a 4-0 lead in the nightcap before getting three gift runs that decided it, St. Joseph could find added value in the divided doubleheader. It not only preserved its narrow lead, but trimmed two more games off Chillicothe's opportunity to overtake it.
Now 24-15, the Mudcats will be idle today and Saturday before St. Joseph comes calling for another doubleheader at Chillicothe's "June" Shaffer Memorial Park stadium Sunday at 5:05 p.m. That will be the Mudcats' regular-season home finale, barring a possible division-title 1-game playoff with St. Joseph.
While Chillicothe is cooling its heels for a couple of days, the Mustangs will host Omaha Diamond Spirit in a doubleheader this (Friday) evening and then Clarinda, Iowa's A's Saturday night.
Thursday's action in St. Joseph concluded with the Mustangs self-destructing defensively after battling back from a 4-0 deficit it faced following Todd Czinege's 3-run homer over the wall in left in the top of the third inning.
The Mustangs scored twice in the fourth and twice in the fifth to catch up, but left the bases full in the fifth.
In the Chillicothe seventh in a 4-4 game, a 1-out hit batsman got what would become a hitless 3-runs inning going. After a walk, an infield error loaded the bases for Corban Williams, whose swing on a 3-2 pitch clipped the catcher's mitt. The interference forced home pinch-runner Nick Quejado from third base to snap the tie.
The Mudcats then got some welcome insurance when the pivot throw on a double-play attempt was wild and two more runs scored.
Chillicothe relief pitcher Derringer Huff (3-1), who had entered with one out in the fifth, closed it out, shortstop Josh Ethier starting a double play on a grounder for the fourth time on the day to shut the door.
Prior to Czinege's first home run of the summer and the Mudcats' fifth overall, the Villanova University infielder had put the Mudcats on top in the first inning with a 2-outs single that scored Williams.
The first game of the doubleheader started quite promisingly for the visitors before turning sour in the third inning.
Williams' 1-out single and stolen base in the first inning were followed by Derek Nakasato's RBI double to left-center field. Czinege followed with a first-pitch single to center and the Mudcats led 2-0.
Chillicothe starting pitcher Vin Roth worked around some wildness in the first two innings, but paid the price for more in the third.
Put on the spot by an inning-opening error – one of three third baseman Quejado made in the game, Roth had a chance to escape unscathed, but couldn't get the third out before walking three and giving up four hits and five runs. A 2-runs double to right-center by Kyle Richards was the pivotal blow.
Although it would threaten, St. Joseph would not add to its 5-2 lead, but starter Dixon Marble overcame his tough start to get through five full innings and earn credit for the win.
Just before he left, Chillicothe scored its last run of the game in another crazy way – a triple-steal executed by trail runner Corban Williams, who began the play at first, and lead runner Reyn Sugai, who was at third.
The Mudcats made a bid to force extra baseball or pull out the win in the last of the seven innings, but St. Joseph reliever Trent Hill ended the game with a strikeout with runners at first and third.