Switch from catch to no-catch call turns would-be double play leads to Mustangs snapping 2-2 tie. D'Amico holds Chillicothe in check through nearly 140 pitches Monday
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — To the Chillicothe Mudcats’ incredulity Monday night, two seventh-inning outs umpires had ruled were deleted and two St. Joseph Mustangs were reinstated to the basepaths in what was then a 2-2 Independence Day Eve game at jam-packed Phil Welch Stadium, setting the stage for the home team’s winning rally as the MINK League North Division-leading Mustangs lengthened their daunting lead in the division race with a 4-2 victory.
Whether the initial or ultimate “catch/no-catch” call on Justin Blasinski’s bid to haul in Colton Pogue’s blast at the wall in left- field was the correct one likely will never be proveable. What is certain is the latter, “no-catch” ruling which stood provided a second chance for the hosts to score the runners they thought they had lost and, with some aid from the again-frustrated Fish, they did so to eventually gain their third triumph over their eastern league neighbor in three 2017 meetings.
Having erased a 2-0 deficit Chillicothe had diligently created with a pair of sacrifice flies in the first five innings with leadoff man Brody Santilli’s 2-outs, 2-runs single in the sixth, the Mustangs (23-8, 17-7) had Brady Anderson at first base on a single to begin the home seventh.
Pogue then blasted an Austin Gussman pitch on a high arc toward the wall in left and giving the impression it might clear it for a 2-runs home run.
However, left fielder Blasinski dashed back and, as the ball fell just short of reaching the fence, attempted to reach out and spear it for an out. The ball seemed to come out of his leather, but, in a flash, ended up in his bare hand. That left players, coaches, and fans wondering if it had been secured without touching the ground for an out or if it had fallen safely, despite the outfielder’s best effort.
A second or two passed and then, seemingly, came the definitive answer: The field umpire signalled an out, that Blasinski had made the catch.
When the Chillicothe flyhawk hurriedly fired the ball to an infielder, who then gunned it across to first baseman Chris Peres, Anderson, who had gone to near second on the blow and then waited for the call, was unable to return to the base in time and apparently been the back end of a spectacular and potentially-game-changing double play.
However, when the action stopped, at St. Joseph field manager Matt Johnson’s request, the game’s two umpires entered a conversation about the play. At that chat’s conclusion, the initial call was vacated and a new ruling of the ball having not been caught was entered in its place. Using their discretionary judgment , the umpires decided to put Anderson at second base and Pogue at first, since those were the bases to which they had advanced prior to the original “out” call.
Injured, but not yet mortally, by the switched call, the Mudcats and Gussman still had an opportunity to make the tumult moot, but could not.
After a passed ball which led to an intentional walk, the Chillicothe reliever, who had been forced to take over on the hill much earlier than preferred when sharp starter Zack Mathes was removed after using about 75 pitches to get through four innings, made a big pitch to induce a fielder’s choice out at home plate.
However, he then issued a bases-full, 5-pitches walk to Jacob Richardson to force in the lead run. A popup provided a chance to limit the damage to one run, but a fumble of a ground ball to third put another tally on the Welch Stadium scoreboard.
Now with a lead, St. Joseph starting pitcher Steve D’Amico, one of eight pitchers on the Mustangs’ staff who has completed his college-career eligibility, returned to the hill, where he’d been very effective to that point.
With – in contrast with the majority of MINK League pitchers – no college-career-protection limits on how much he throws in a game or during the season, the second-year Mustang worked another scoreless inning, notching his 11th strikeout of the game along the way. When a fly ball to center ended the top of the eighth, the righthander had thrown a whopping 136 pitches, according to the league’s online stats service.
Johnson turned to a younger hurler, junior-to-be Jake Purl, for the ninth and the husky righty didn’t even let the Mudcats get a ball in play. Two strikeouts were followed by a walk before the 13th whiff of a Chillicothe batter in the game ended it.
The Mudcats’ scoring came in the second and fifth.
D’Amico bunched all four walks he had in the game into the second inning with a scoring fly ball by Tanner Baker plating Blasinski with the game’s initial marker. The fact that a key hit to turn that opportunity into a crooked number on the scoreboard left Chillicothe fans with an ominous feeling of impending regret, a well-founded fear, it proved.
In the fifth, No. 9 batter Kenny Jarema pulled a drive off the chummy wall in right field for a leadoff double, was bunted to third by Ramger Iglesias, and tagged and crossed the plate on a Kody Gardner fly ball to center.
After quickly setting St. Joseph down in order in the home fifth after taking over from Mathes, Gussman (3-1) yielded a leadoff double and walk in the sixth. A bunt by Chillicothe product Derek Hussey moved those men up and, after a popup gave the Fish a chance to wiggle off the hook again – St. Joseph already had stranded eight runners, Santilli made Hussey’s sacrifice pay off as he plopped a hit into shallow left-center field.
Statistically, the Mudcats (16-13, 12-13 MINK) got only five hits off the D’Amico/Purl pair. No Chillicothe player managed more than one hit.
St. Joseph managed only seven hits itself, in part due to another very good Mathes performance.
Blanking the Mustangs through his four frames, the league All-Star extended his personal current run of consecutive scoreless innings to 18 innings.