Hurler retires last 17 Joplin batters he faces in Saturday MINK League home victory. Kenny Jarema has three hits, three RBI to pace Mudcats' attack

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Northern Illinois University righthander Parker Kirpatrick locked in for his summer team – the Chillicothe Mudcats – after allowing a fluky leadoff single in the top of the third inning Saturday night.
Having yielded four hits, but only one run, through the first 10 men he’d faced, the Lawrence, Kan., resident got a double-play grounder to erase the man who’d reached on a slow bouncer that shortstop Ramger Iglesias apparently lost sight of in the setting sun and went on to set down every remaining Joplin Outlaw he faced during a sterling 8-innings start, helping lead the Mudcats to an 8-2 MINK League home win.
Kirkpatrick (3-1), in his second-straight winning start, retired the last 17 Joplin batters who stepped in against him – a string which might have been 19 in a row had his shortstop been able to make the play to start the third.
He was supported by otherwise-flawless defense and rarely did the Chillicothe fielders have to make anything other than a routine play. Inexperienced first baseman Dawsen Bacho did a nice job of blocking and smothering a grounder which skimmed right over the bag to get a middle-innings out and center fielder Kody Gardner charged in hard to stab a sinking line drive around shin-high to close out the Outlaws’ eighth.
Kirkpatrick’s pitching excellence – he and mopup reliever Tyler Clark finished with a combined 4-hitter – also was buttressed by a 13-hits offense led by third baseman Kenny Jarema’s third 3-RBI and first 3-hits game of the year. The Chillicothe No. 9 batter’s 2-runs single in the second inning started the Mudcats’ scoring and erased the 1-0 lead Joplin had gained without a hit in the top of the first.
Gardner also stroked three hits for the Fish and Bryce Bisenius two. Bacho had a sacrifice fly and a run-scoring single to drive in two.
Saturday’s triumph in the opener of a quick 3-games set – a doubleheader of 7-innings games will take place Sunday, starting at 5 p.m. at “June” Shaffer Memorial Park stadium – against the last-place team from the league’s South Division raised Chillicothe’s season record to 21-17 and drew it within a game of .500 (16-17) in the league for the first time in nearly two weeks.
While, based on records shown on the league’s statistical website, it was thought the Mudcats had been tied with the Clarinda (Iowa) A’s for the North Division’s third and final playoffs berth entering Saturday’s game, Chillicothe head coach Jack Winters pointed out after the game that one of Clarinda’s listed league wins actually was a non-league game, so the A’s technically still were a half-game back of the Fish after sweeping a home doubleheader from Joplin on Friday. With the A’s idle Saturday, Chillicothe’s win actually pushed it a full game ahead of the Iowans, who are 14-17 in MINK action.
Winters, also the Mudcats’ pitching coach, reports he plans to start lefthander Tyler Hansen (2-1), who has won his last two starts, and Keytesville, Mo., product Blake Collister (0-1) against Joplin Sunday.
The Fish go to Sedalia Monday with the coach saying Saturday night he was undecided on his starter for that one against the red-hot Bombers, who take a 6-games winning streak into their Sunday home game with Clarinda.
After Joplin turned a game-opening base on balls – the only free pass it would get all night, a steal, a wild pitch, and an infield out into a 1-0 lead, Chillicothe seized the lead in the second and, behind Kirkpatrick’s ruthless efficiency, kept it.
Bacho was hit by a pitch from Outlaws starting and losing pitcher Chris Lilly to begin the home second. Bisenius went the other way with a single to left with one out and both runners advanced on Cris Cabral’s tap to third that became the second out.
Jarema then lifted a popup a short distance behind the second baseman’s position for what should have been the inning-ending out. However, after settling under it, the infielder suddenly veered toward the foul line as if he’d heard the right fielder call him off the play. However, at the same instant, the outfielder also stopped his advance and the ball fell to the grass uncaught for a gift single and two runs.
Had that play been made, it would not have made a difference, subsequent action in the errorless contest proved.
The Chillicothe third began with a Gardner infield hit over the third-base bag and Anthony Lantigua’s “leg hit” on a slow roller toward second. Justin Blasinski, one of the MINK League’s leading run deliverers, produced his 35th run batted in with a double to deep left-center field. Lantigua reached third as Gardner scored and Bacho followed with a fly to center that made it 4-0.
Another “2-spot” was posted by the home team in the sixth when Tanner Baker lofted a double over the right fielder’s head, Bisenius reached with a hit when his popup behind the pitcher’s mound fell untouched, Cabral bounced to second to drive in Baker, and Jarema poked a run-scoring single to left.
Bacho’s grounder through the hole on the left side in the seventh greeted reliever Noah Kennedy and delivered Chris Peres from second, making it 7-1. In the eighth, Jarema got his third single and came home on Gardner’s third hit – a double to deep right-center.