Five unearned runs keyed 7-runs inning, snapping 3-3 tie at Nevada (Mo.) Tuesday
NEVADA, Mo. — It was not the Chillicothe Mudcats’ best game thus far in 2017, but Tuesday’s victory at Nevada probably was their most efficient.
After erasing an early 3-1 deficit with a speed-created 2-runs third, the Mudcats made the Griffons pay dearly for a 1-out error with five 2-outs hits in a row to craft a 7-runs inning they then rode to a 10-7 MINK League road win.
Defeating Nevada a fourth time in as many meetings, the Fish climbed back to the .500 mark (9-9) in the league, while Nevada dipped to 9-13. Overall, Chillicothe boosted its mark to 13-9. Nevada sagged to 9-15.
Although the Mudcats gained the sizable lead with their big fourth inning, they could never breathe easily, even considering they ended up still up by three.
Right after Chillicothe’s eruption, the Griffons tallied once in the home fourth and twice in the fifth to draw within four with four innings to go. Another Nevada run in the seventh tightened things a bit more, but the Griffons – on a home field where they’ve burned the Mudcats with the long ball in previous years – never got the big hit they needed, despite numerous chances.
When Chillicothe lefthanded closer Austin Gussman got designated hitter Ben Bayless on a harmless fly ball to right field to end the game – nailing down his sixth save, Nevada had left its 14th runner on base.
Twice, Nevada left the bases full, including in the seventh when, already having scored once in the inning off winning reliever Nate Wenson (1-1), cleanup hitter Noah Menchaca – owner of two grand slams already this season – grounded out, representing the go-ahead run. Back in the fourth, Menchaca had fanned to leave two on as the last batter Chillicothe starting hurler Trevor Maly faced.
Once Maly departed, Wenson shakily provided three innings of stopgap work, allowing three runs – one unearned – on five hits and three walks. However, he delivered several key outs in tight situations to keep Nevada at arm’s length.
Dan Naif, one night after taking his second loss while allowing four of the five batters he faced against St. Joseph to reach – including consecutive run-producing triples, bounced back with a hitless eighth inning, including two strikeouts.
Gussman then moved to within two of the Mudcats team record for saves in a season, although he allowed a double with one out to heighten the tension.
Chillicothe was in position to hold on because of a strong offensive start to the game.
In the first, Kody Gardner tripled with one out and scored on Chris Peres’ bouncer which went off the pitcher’s glove to the shortstop for the second out.
After Nevada roughed Maly up for five hits and three runs in the second, but left three on, the Mudcats’ wheels created a tie.
Kenny Jarema drew a 1-out base on balls and Ramger Iglesias singled him to second. A walk to Gardner loaded the bags for Peres, who entered the game with a team- and league-best .452 batting average.
While he didn’t come up with a hit this time, he did drive in two runs in unusual fashion, courtesy of the speed and aggressiveness with which the Mudcats were formulated during the offseason.
On a 3-2 pitch, he hit a medium-speed grounder up the middle to the left-field side of the bag, but within the shortstop’s range.
As the fielder gloved the ball and flipped it to second base to try to force the rapidly-approaching Gardner, Jarema was scoring without a play.
However, because of the full count and the runner ahead of him at third, the whippet-quick Iglesias had taken a big lead on the pitch and was on his way to third as soon as he saw the downward-angle contact with Peres’ bat. As a result, he was to third base and rounding it as the second baseman caught the toss for the forceout.
With the Nevada second sacker preoccupied with making sure he made the catch of the throw to get Gardner, he was unaware Iglesias had not broken stride rounding third and was streaking toward home plate. By the time he was alerted by teammates and tried to throw home, it was too late and became an error when it eluded the catcher, letting Peres advance to second. The game was tied, 3-3, by two runs scoring on a routine force play at second base.
After Maly kept Nevada from countering in its half of the third, despite a 2-bases throwing error behind him, the Chillicothe attack pounced on another error to have their big, big inning.
After Bryce Bisenius waited out a leadoff walk, Anthony Lantigua – likely feeling like a human piñata – was hit in the lower leg by a pitch, forcing him from the game. It was the third time in two games he’d been plunked by a pitch.
Christian Hoplock followed with a sharp shot off the side of the mound that slipped under the second baseman’s glove behind second. The single allowed Bisenius to score without a play, giving the visitors a lead they would build on and not yield.
Following a forceout at third on an attempted sacrifice bunt that was made moot by a subsequent wild pitch, the Griffons’ second baseman committed his second miscue, throwing wildly to first base after gloving Jarema’s grounder. By the time the ball was corralled, two runs had scored and Jarema was at second base with his team up 6-3.
Nevada starting pitcher Dante Richardson tried to weather the storm by fanning Iglesias for the second out, but having to get the “extra” out resulting from the error proved too much.
Gardner ripped his second extra-base hit of the game – a double to right – to plate Jarema and knock out Richardson.
Lefthande reliever D.J. Alexander apparently didn’t have time to get fully loose before being summoned as the first four Mudcats to face him ripped him for hits.
Peres got his fourth RBI of the evening with a liner to center that plated Gardner easily. Justin Blasinski then sliced a double into the left-field corner and fellow lefty swinger Bisenius, in his second plate appearance of the inning, pulled a hit into right to drive in two more, making it 10-3.
Josh Urps, who had pinch-run for Lantigua earlier in the inning, got a chance to swing the bat before heading out to the field and delivered Chillicothe’s sixth hit of the inning before Alexander finally settled down.
Once the Nevada southpaw did, he slammed the lid on the Mudcats’ bats. After, at last, getting the last out of the long fourth, he not only held the Fish scoreless through the eighth, but hitless, too. He retired the last 11 Chillicothe batters he faced, a string of consecutive men retired David Ruot subsequently extended to 14 by striking out the side in order in the ninth.
Statistically, the key numbers likely were – again – in the men left on base category, only this time that tipped the scales the Mudcats’ way, rather than against them, as has been the case several times in their recent cold spell.
While Nevada was out-hitting Chillicothe 15-9 – led by recently-added leadoff man L.J. Hatch’s 4-for-5 night, it also was leaving those 14 runners on. By contrast, the Fish left only five.
While Peres was unusually driving in four runs during a 1-for-5 night, Gardner had the two extra-base hits and two runs scored and Bisenius had two hits and two runs batted in.
Pesky, OBP-master Jarema didn’t have a hit out of the No. 9 “hole” in the lineup, but scored twice and had a RBI while reaching safely twice. That boosted his season on-base percentage to .471, despite a .200 batting average.
In addition to Hatch’s four hits and two runs batted in, Nevada had three hits from Oscar Larrinaga and two hits and two RBI from Kainalu Pitoy.
With his sixth save, Gussman is only two behind the team mark established by Blake Ring in 2003 – the team’s second year of existence – and matched the next year by Chris Fowler.
With essentially half the season yet to play, the Thorton, Colo., sophomore-to-be stands an excellent chance of equaling or surpassing that standard.
The same two teams meet tonight (Wednesday, June 28) in the final game of the first half of the Mudcats regular-season schedule and middle game of their 3-games series. Lefthander Matt Herman (1-1) is slated to start on the mound for Chillicothe.