early Sedalia reliever thwarts Fish, Bombers go on to win by wide margin Tuesday. Mudcats stay half-game ahead of Clarinda in playoffs race, however
SEDALIA, Mo. — A game in which the Chillicothe Mudcats had a 5-runs inning, scored eight runs altogether, and the opponent both had to lift its starting pitcher after he walked six of the eight batters he faced while garnering only three outs and had the third hurler it used allow four walks and five runs while securing only one out sounds like one they should have deposited in the “wins” column.
Tuesday night, however, it was one in which they had to score a ninth-inning run to avoid losing by double digits.
The Sedalia Bombers, last year’s MINK League champions and seemingly in the process of cementing their participation in this year’s expanded playoffs, continued their recent abuse of the Mudcats at home Tuesday, following 8-2 and 11-3 triumphs in Chillicothe in the previous four days with a 17-8 trouncing at home.
While St. Joseph and Sedalia begin to fade into the distance ahead of them, at least the Mudcats’ position in the playoffs race didn’t worsen.
Thanks to division-leading St. Joseph’s 2-1 victory over Clarinda (Iowa) Tuesday, Chillicothe remained a slender half-game ahead of Clarinda in the race for the division’s third and final postseason-qualifying berth.
Now 1-7 against the top teams in their own division, the Fish will try to find solace and success in a stretch of 6-consecutive games against the best and worst of the South Division.
Thursday evening, they’re slated for a 6 p.m. doubleheader with first-place Ozark at Meador Park stadium in Springfield before having a single game with the Generals there on Friday.
They’ll then return home to meet South cellar-dweller Joplin in a single game Saturday and Sunday evening twinbill.
Ironically, thus far this summer, Chillicothe has taken two of three from the first-place Generals and lost two of three to the last-place Outlaws. Through Wednesday, Joplin owned only eight league wins.
Tuesday’s game at Sedalia’s Liberty Park stadium had a distinct familiarity to it in a couple of ways.
Not only did it become the Bombers’ fourth-straight win – all by at least six runs – over the Mudcats since Chillicothe claimed the clubs’ first meeting by a 4-3 margin, but the early going unfolded in a manner eerily reminiscent of the Mudcats’ prior trip to Pettis County.
On June 22, two nights after downing the Bombers at home to halt a 2-games hiccup and boost their records to 7-4 in the league and 11-4 overall – one of its best-ever marks after the first 15 games of a campaign, Chillicothe had its first three batters in the top of the first inning receive walks.
With the bases loaded, no outs, and one of Chillicothe’s most-potent bats – Bryce Bisenius, who was in the midst of a 12-games hitting streak in which he hit just under .500 over a span of 48 at-bats – stepping in, Sedalia head coach Craig McAndrews made a bold and unorthodox decision. He pulled his starting pitcher and summoned Jake Tolbert.
Lefty-swinging Bisenius seemed to make the move backfire when he smacked a 2-runs single, not only giving the Fish a quick lead, but keeping the table set for an even-bigger inning.
What happened next now looks, in hindsight, like the turning point of Chillicothe’s season.
The Sedalia reliever retired the next three batters to keep the score at 2-0 and went on to shut out the Mudcats for 7-2/3 innings while his teammates rallied for a 10-2 triumph.
Between then and Tuesday morning, the Mudcats had gone 7-12 overall and 6-12 in league play.
With a chance at payback with times grown more desperate by that downturn, Chillicothe instead suffered a flashback.
Just as in the June 22 game at Sedalia, the first two Mudcats received walks Tuesday. After the third batter flied out, the Bombers’ starting pitcher walked three more in succession. However, because a pickoff had erased the first Chillicothe baserunner, all it had to show from the free passes was a single run, which actually scored on a wild throw.
As in the prior visit to Liberty Park, a chance to put a healthy, early dent in the hosts was missed when a first-pitch groundout after the previous three batters had received walks left the bases loaded and the score at 1-0.
When Sedalia turned a 1-out single and hit batsman into two runs without either of the next batters hitting safely – Cole Gray followed his hit with steals of second and third bases off Chillicothe surprise starting pitcher Austin Gussman before scoring on a wild pitch and Trey Harris went from first to third on another errant pitch after being plunked and then boldly stole home on a 2-outs, 2-strike pitch, the home team had a lead it would preserve, in no small way thanks again to Tolbert.
Almost as if scripted, a leadoff walk in the top of the second – the sixth of the first eight Mudcats to be put aboard that way – was McAndrews’ cue to wave in his lefthander from the bullpen to the mound, just as he’d done about three weeks earlier.
Tolbert retired the first batter he faced this time, then gave up an infield hit before freezing the two runners at first and second to keep his team on top.
Although he wouldn’t go as far or quite as effectively as he did the first time, the southpaw nevertheless worked four innings of relief with only one run allowed, eventually gaining credit for the win, as he had the time before.
When he left after the fifth this time, with his side possessing a 9-2 lead after a 6-runs fifth that kayoed Gussman and bruised reliever Jase Dalton, it at least gave Chillicothe a window of opportunity to see if it could fare better against someone else.
It did, but not enough and not for long.
Kody Gardner greeted Tolbert’s replacement with a single to start the Mudcats’ sixth and Tanner Baker and DeVonte Washington followed by accepting the eighth and ninth of 11 walks issued to the visitors.
A forceout grounder off Kenny Jarema’s bat moved a run across the plate and a walk to Iglesias reloaded the bases. When Anthony Lantigua also waited out a base on balls, it scored Washington, cut the Sedalia lead to 9-4, and signaled the end of Jordan Lawrence’s one-third of an inning stint on the hill.
Chris Peres lifted a sacrifice fly to right field against fourth Sedalia pitcher Tyler Quick, driving Jarema in, and Justin Blasinski – the Mudcats’ leader in runs batted in and among the league leaders – followed an Iglesias-Lantigua double-steal with a basehit on the next pitch to drive both in. Chillicothe trailed by only two.
The reduced margin quickly began growing again, however, when Sedalia came back up to bat.
Reliever Jerald Johnston continued his recent scuffles, hitting the first batter he faced, then allowing a single, a sacrifice bunt, and another hit batsman to load the bases with one out in the home sixth.
He limited the damage to one run on a sacrifice fly, but surrendered two more runs on 3-straight, 2-outs hits when given a second inning of work from the stressed-and-strained Chillicothe bullpen.
Their lead now back up to five runs at 12-7, the Bombers lowered the boom in the eighth against seldom-used Tyler Clark, who continues to work his way back from a school-year shoulder injury.
Andrew Warner whacked Sedalia’s second home run of the night – Dalton Horstmeier had gone deep with a man on against Dalton in the 6-runs fifth – as the first man Clark faced. A third-strike wild pitch which let the batter reach helped set up four more runs – probably none of which deserved to score.
A catchable, 2-outs pop fly to short left field was allowed to drop for a gift, 2-runs double through apparent miscommunication between shortstop Jarema and left field Lantigua, both playing positions they’ve rarely been used in this summer. The next batter lofted a popup to a similar location and this time Jarema had it go off ihs glove for an error as the last two Bombers runs scampered home to make it 17-7.
Although it didn’t impact the outcome in the least, the run Chillicothe managed to scrape out in the ninth did have a bit of statistical significance.
It was scored by Bacho on a Washington groundout after Bacho had begun the inning with a infield-hit dribbler the third baseman missed on a barehanded attempt.
That kept alive the Sacramento State player’s deceptive 13-games hitting streak, a streak in which Bacho has had exactly one hit in each of the contests. During the longest Mudcats consecutive-games hitting streak since Matt Creel’s 16-gamer in 2011 and equaling the sixth-longest in team history (Josh Mayo’s 20-game streak in 2003, the team’s second year of existence, is the record), Bacho’s batting average is a pedestrian .283 (13 of 46), particularly compared to Bisenius’ scorching 12-games tear (23 of 48, .479) last month.
If Bacho hits safely in the next game he plays, he’ll tie 2004 Fish Thad Ledford for the fifth-longest streak in team history and be one game behind the skeins of Matty Johnson in 2008 and Casey Solem in 2010.
Statistically Wednesday, Sedalia out-hit the Mudcats 14-8, with five of the 14 Bombers hit good for extra bases.
A handful of Bombers had multiple runs batted in and five also had multiple hits, while six scored at least twice each. Gray went four for five with three runs driven in and two scored and cleanup man Warner homered and tripled in three official at-bats, driving in three, as well, and scoring three times.
For Chillicothe, only Iglesias had more than one hit, going two for three and drawing two walks.
Speaking of walks, Jarema accepted his 29th of the season in the eight inning, keeping him tied for the league lead, according to the league’s online statistics site. That total has him with seven of Tyler Knight’s Mudcats record of 36, set in 2008.
With essentially a dozen regular-season games left (not including the suspended game against Clarinda), he appears to be a good bet to eclipse Knight’s mark.