Fish begin stretch of 21-straight MINK League games by edging only team to have beaten them thus far in 2017, the Clarinda (Iowa) A's, 8-7
CLARINDA, Iowa — Powered into a 6-3 lead by a rat-a-tat-tat third inning, the Chillicothe Mudcats needed the cushion of a single, eighth-inning tally to fend off the Clarinda A’s 8-7 in MINK League college-level, wood-bat baseball Wednesday night. It was Chillicothe’s seventh victory in a row.
After aiding the A’s to three runs in the home second by committing back-to-back errors ahead of a home run by Clarinda catcher Kale Emshoff, the Mudcats unleashed a torrent of eight singles in the top of the third – the last four in succession with two outs – to gain their own 3-runs cushion.
When Anthony Lantigua followed Ramger Iglesias’ steal of second base with a run-scoring hit to right field in the top of the eighth, Chillicothe once more had that 3-runs advantage, but the impact of that run proved more than symbolic or symmetrical.
In the bottom of the inning, Emshoff followed a 2-outs walk to the preceding batter with his second opposite-field blast over the right-center field fence of the night, drawing the hosts within 8-7.
That gave Chillicothe closer Austin Gussman little room for error, but the 2017 season’s first honoree as MINK League “pitcher of the week” handled the pressure. Although he allowed a 1-out single to speedy Danny Mitchell, Gussman never let him advance any further, earning his third save in four tries to preserve the win for his team and starting pitcher Matt Herman (1-0).
Chllicothe accomplished a number of things with its most-recent triumph.
Now 9-2 overall, this year’s team matched the 2004 Mudcats squad for the best won-lost record through 11 games.
The seventh win in succession equals the third-longest such stretch in team history. Five prior Fish teams have won eight times in a row, two of them going on to a ninth-straight before losing.
Because Wednesday’s contest was in the league, Chillicothe boosted its record in the loop to 5-2. In terms of winning percentage, that’s the league’s best; by won-lost record, St. Joseph’s triumph at Joplin Wednesday kept it one “game” ahead of the Mudcats in the North standings with a league ledger of 9-4.
The 2017 Fish can produce the sixth 8-games winning streak in team history and keep pace with the 2004 club, which started 10-2, Thursday night when they again meet Clarinda, this time back home at “June” Shaffer Memorial Park stadium. It will be the Iowa team’s last appearance in Chillicothe this summer.
Lefthander Tyler Hansen (0-0), considered by Mudcats head coach Jack Winters as his team’s greatest mound talent, is due to make the start for the 7:05 p.m. game.
It will be Constitution-Tribune Night at the stadium Thursday. The first 48 youngsters entering the gate will receive a free baseball, courtesy of the C-T and its corporate owner, GateHouse Media Co.
Entering Wednesday’s action at Clarinda’s hitters-friendly park, Chillicothe had not allowed more than two runs in a game its previous four outings.
Thanks in large part to the Mudcats’ own largesse, that statistic went out the window on one second-inning swing of the bat.
With one down in the A’s second, Herman notched his first strikeout of the night, but didn’t get an out from it. A too-high throw to first base by catcher Dawsen Bacho, after blocking the pitch in the dirt, allowed the batter to reach safely. When a grounder up the middle was misplayed by shortstop Josh Urps, the home team had two on.
The righthanded-swinging Emshoff cleared them from the basepaths by clearing the fence in right-center with a blast which put the Iowans in front 3-0.
Herman offered a hint that the sudden misfortune would not have a negative, long-term impact on the Mudcats by fanning the next two batters to end the inning.
Then his teammates went to work with the bat.
Kody Gardner, the Mudcats No. 9 man in a slightly-modified lineup, began the third with a dribbler past the mound for an infield hit. Iglesias singled him to second and Lantigua, wanting to at least advance both teammates, got more when his well-placed bunt to the third-base side went for a bases-filling hit.
A strikeout stalled the rally only momentarily before Bryce Bisenius, the team’s hot-hitting designated hitter, pulled a sharp single into right field. That cut the deficit to 3-1.
A shallow fly ball to center field by Tanner Baker ended up being too shallow for the A’s center fielder to catch, but the flyhawk was close enough to making the play that Bisenius had to hover near first base. That allowed the outfielder to quickly pick the ball off the grass and zing it in to second base for a forceout, even as Iglesias scored Chillicothe’s second run.
An aggressive choice by Mudcats assistant coach for offense, Ken Durling, turned a productive inning into a big, big one.
With runners at the corners and two outs, Durling had Baker on the move toward second base as a pitch sped toward home plate and batter Bacho. Because Baker was going, the A’s shortstop started toward the bag, in case the pitch wasn’t put in play and a throw was made on the theft attempt.
The ball was put in play, however, Bacho bouncing it through the space the shortstop had vacated for a hit-and-run single that sent Lantigua home from third with the tying tally and Baker on to third.
Urps then, like Bacho had just done, atoned for his error the prior half-inning by pulling a RBI single into right field. That put Chillicothe ahead for keeps, 4-3, and pushed Bacho around to third. He scored from there when Chris Peres, who has the team’s highest batting average thus far (among players who have played substantially) squeezed a hit through the middle of the diamond.
Stepping in for a second time in the inning, Gardner also sent a grounder up the middle. This time, the shortstop was able to get a glove on it, but it caromed on into short center, letting Urps round third base and score without a play. Chillicothe’s eighth hit of the third inning – all against starting/losing pitcher Cam Bednar – left them with the 6-3 lead.
Clarinda nibbled on Herman for single runs in its third and fourth to close to within one of the Mudcats, but Peres’ second hit of the game was a double to right that scored an on-the-move Bacho from first base in the top of the fifth. That made it 7-5.
When, after a couple of scoreless innings, Lantigua made it 8-5 in the eighth, it appeared Chillicothe might be home free, outcome-wise, but Emshoff had other ideas before Gussman got the Fish to the finish line in front.
Statistically, the Mudcats had a wide 16-7 advantage in hits. Emshoff’s power show counteracted that to a large degree, however.
Individually for Chillicothe, continuing a trend seen all season thus far, the bottom portion of the Mudcats’ lineup was heavily involved.
Gardner went three for three with a run scored and one knocked in. Directly ahead of him, Bacho, Urps, and Peres had two hits apiece and at least one run batted in.
Joining the multi-hits party were No. 2 hitter Lantigua and cleanup man Bisenius with two each plus a RBI apiece.
Given the way the game ended – close, one of the more-meaningful aspects of the game was, as Winters had projected when making his starting pitcher selection, Herman’s ability to thwart Clarinda’s aggressive baserunning game.
Following Chillicothe’s win Monday, when sharing his pitching rotation plans, the head coach had noted, presciently, “Clarinda’s been successful at taking bases on us and Herman and Hansen, as lefties, are going to slow that run game down a little bit. Herman has an A-plus-plus pickoff move.”
Herman, from suburban St. Louis and Rend Lake College in Illinois, displayed his devastating move to the Iowa team more than once on the night, to the A’s dismay.
Clarinda’s first batter of the game, Mitchell, drew a walk, but soon was caught off first base by a Herman throw there and was retired as he tried to advance to second.
Almost identically in the fifth, Wyatt Ball coaxed a 2-outs walk in what was a 7-5 game at the moment, bringing Clarinda’s cleanup hitter to the batter’s box. However, before the hitter had much chance to do anything, the inning was over as Herman again flicked a throw to first sacker Peres which caught Ball flat-footed, rather than on the balls of his feet. Again with no option but to try for second, the Clarinda runner was cut down by Peres’ throw there.
Even after Herman departed, following six innings of 4-hits, 1-earned-run ball, Chillicothe still put the kibash of the A’s running game.
In the eighth, right after the home run that made it a 1-run game, swift Ryan Hunter got aboard when hit by a pitch. However, a couple of pitches into Jordan Abushahla’s plate appearance, Hunter was erased as catcher Bacho gunned him out on a regular stolen-base attempt.
Those eliminations on the basepaths helped offset the three unearned runs facilitated by Chillicothe’s pair of errors and two passed balls.