Battles for MiNK League baseball North Division playoff berth with Sedalia on tap Saturday and Monday. Sunday, July 9, non-league game will start at 6:05 p.m. rather than hour later
Following a 5-days break from competition – in part because of the 2017 MINK League All-Star Game, the Chillicothe Mudcats are slated to return to action with three home games in three nights, starting Saturday, July 8.
In a 3-teams battle for the second and third league playoffs berths from the North Division, third-place Chillicothe (16-13, 12-13 MINK) will host the team directly in front of them – the Sedalia Bombers (16-13, 14-13 MINK) – in 7:05 p.m. contests both Saturday and Monday. The two clubs have split two prior meetings this summer – each winning on its own field.
In between the two critical league outings, Chillicothe will play its last non-league game of the summer, hosting the KC Monarchs Sunday evening. The game time has been moved up from its original time slot to 6:05 p.m. (rather than 7:05), a team spokesperson told the C-T earlier this week.
In terms of the Mudcats’ pitching plans, head/pitching coach Jack Winters intends to send righthanders Chris Peres and Zack Mathes to the hill to start the league games. Righty Blake Collister will draw the assignment against the Kansas City Amateur Baseball Association Monarchs Sunday.
After relatively-extensive use as both a hurler and corner infielder at California’s La Verne University this spring, an injury to a prospective Mudcats first baseman prior to the start of the summer campaign has led Peres (0-1, 4.37 earned run average) being used mostly as a first baseman with the Fish. He handled that duty well enough to make the North Division All-Star team.
However, the pickup of another combination pitcher/first baseman in Jase Dalton last weekend is expected to free up Peres for more mound usage. He’s thrown only 12-1/3 innings going into Saturday’s key start, but probably figures to have a regular turn in the starting pitching rotation the last three weeks of the Mudcats’ season.
Monday’s starter, Mathss (2-0), emerged as the club’s most-reliable starting pitcher in June and will enter his start against the Bombers having not allowed a run in his last 18-1/3 innings and owning a microscopic 0.95 ERA.
His two most-recent starts both were against division-leading St. Joseph and resulted in his allowing no runs in 11 total innings, but nary an individual or team win. In both cases, after Mathes departed – he lasted only four innings last Monday, the Mustangs got to Chillicothe’s bullpen for four runs and won.
Collister (0-1, 6.19 ERA) will make his third start and his second appearance against the KC Monarchs. His ERA reflecting a few big innings that have offset some strong, extended outings, the Keytesville, Mo., and North Central Missouri College (Trenton) product retired all six Monarchs batters he faced out of the bullpen on June 9.
Given the fairly-limited remaining schedule, it would not be surprising if Collister, a sophomore-to-be at NCMC, worked exclusively out of the bullpen the rest of the way.
After the three home games this weekend and Monday, 10 of Chillicothe’s last 15 games (including the concluding portion of their suspended June 15 game against the Clarinda A’s) will take place on foreign soil. Currently three games under .500 on the road in the MINK League, that could make winning both head-to-head duels with Sedalia vitally important to the Mudcats’ playoffs hopes.
For the first time this year, the league will have a generously-expanded postseason setup to determine the league champion.
Three of the four teams in each division will be involved in the playoffs, beginning with an intra-division do-or-die game between the Nos. 2 and 3 finishers. That survivor then will have a 1-and-done “go” with the division’s regular-season leader with that winner representing the division in a best-of-3 championship series against the opposite division’s representative.
While idle itself Friday, Chillicothe’s hopes were helped by Sedalia losing to St. Joseph 4-2, further solidifying the Mustangs’ stranglehold on the division lead.
The third team in the current mix for the North’s second and third playoffs berths – the Clarinda A’s – salvaged a split of a road doubleheader with runaway South Division leader Ozark Friday. That kept the A’s 1-1/2 games behind Chillicothe.