Concluded non-MINK League action Sunday night, downing KC Monarchs 7-4 for fifth non-league triumph in five tries
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Their existence-long distinction of never having had a losing final over record very much hingeing on how they fare against MINK League opponents on the road, the Chillicothe Mudcats on Sunday evening maxed out what their limited non-league slate could offer by holding off the pesky KC Monarchs 7-4 at “June” Shaffer Memorial Park stadium.
The Mudcats’ 17th victory in 31 tries this summer was their fifth in five games against non-league competition and their second against the Monarchs from the Kansas City Amateur Baseball Association.
The rest of Chillicothe’s regular-season schedule will be versus league opponents, against whom they were 12-14 entering Monday night’s 7:05 home game against Sedalia.
Righthander Zack Mathes (2-1), the team’s top hurler thus far in 2017, is to be the Mudcats’ starting pitcher. Owner of a sub-1.00 earned run average, he’ll face Sedalia for the first time.
Tuesday night, the Mudcats start a string of five league road games in four days with a 7 p.m. contest at Jefferson City. Lefthander Tyler Hansen, spectacular in winning for the first time as a Fish in his last start, is due to get the ball, Jack Winters, Mudcats head/pitching coach, says.
Sunday’s Chillicothe triumph was highlighted by hot-swinging infielder Anthony Lantigua’s 4-for-5, 2-RBI, 2-runs-scored day and a scoreless, 5-innings start by righthander Parker Kirkpatrick (2-1).
A flurry of five runs combined in the fifth and sixth innings broke open what had been a 2-0 game, but the Kansas City team shrunk that gap with a pair of 2-runs innings against Chillicothe bullpenners in the seventh and eighth. Recently-added Jase Dalton made his first mound appearance for the home team in the ninth and earned the save in hitless fashion.
While Kirkpatrick was on the bump, the Monarchs managed only one hit – a clean single to center opening the fourth.
After throwing a scoreless sixth, first reliever Blake Collister surrendered a couple of runs in his second inning. Tyler Clark then gave up two more in his lone inning of work.
While the non-league opponent made some late noise, it wasn’t enough to overcome what, largely, the Mudcats’ Nos. 2-4 men in the lineup had produced in the first six innings.
No. 3 batter Lantigua singled to help score the first-inning run cleanup man Justin Blasinski plated with a fly ball, then scored in both the fifth and sixth after collecting his third and fourth hits of the game.
In the fifth, the Bloomfield College senior-to-be’s single was followed by the first of Blasinski’s two singles. A groundout by Bryce Bisenius scored Lantigua from third to make it a 3-0 game and Dawsen Bacho’s only hit plated Blasinski with two outs.
In the sixth, Devonte Washington reached via base on balls for the third-straight time leading off against Monarchs relief pitcher Timmy Walker. With two outs, on a 3-2 pitch, No. 2 batter Kody Gardner’s second hit dribbled through the right side of the infield, letting Washington scurry to third base.
After Gardner stole second uncontested, Lantigua found the gap in right-center field with a double – the game’s only extra-base hit, plating the two runners. Blasinski singled home Lantigua to make it 7-0.
Statistically, at game’s end, the Mudcats’ Nos. 2-4 spots in the order had gone a composite six for 13 with four runs batted in and five runs scored. Lantigua is very hot after returning from a recent injury, going eight for his last 16 (not including a 3-for-3 showing in the league All-Star Game).
From the No. 8 spot, Washington scored the other two runs while reaching safely all four times – getting a single his last at-bat after the three previous walks. Kenny Jarema singled him home in the second.
Only three games over .500 after Sunday’s play and with a sub-.400 winning percentage against league teams away from Shaffer Park stadium, the Mudcats statistically are on track to finish right around the break-even mark at the end of their regular season 16 games hence.
If that was to prove out, in theory, with the league’s new, expanded playoffs format, it might come down to whether the Fish make those playoffs or how they do in them as to whether they extended their run of non-losing seasons to 17 in a row. In the team’s previous 16 years of play, they’ve had a winning final mark 15 times and an even-steven ledger the other year.
The first step of the final push toward determining that closing mark will be taken Monday at home against Sedalia’s Bombers, the team directly ahead of Chillicothe in the league’s North Division standings.
The Bombers have taken two of the three previous meetings of the teams this summer, including an 8-2 triumph in Chillicothe Saturday night.