Miss chance to open serious distance between themselves and Clarinda A's in MINK League North by following 8-3 win over Joplin with 7-0 loss
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — The Chillioothe Mudcats gave themselves a chance to take a giant step toward the 2017 MINK League playoffs late Sunday afternoon, then meekly retreated a bit.
Entering a home doubleheader with the club with the league’s poorest record, while the team with which they are battling for the third and last league playoffs berth was visitnig the loop’s hottest club, the Mudcats began their action with the possibility of going to bed owning a more-secure 2-1/2-games lead on the Clarinda (Iowa) A’s in the MINK’s North Division.
Before Clarinda began its contest at Sedalia, Mo., Chillicothe already had used a 15-hits attack and solid, complete-game pitching effort from Tyler Hansen to post an 8-3 first-game verdict over the Joplin (Mo.) Outlaws at “June” Shaffer Memorial Park stadium.
However, in the half-hour it took for the umpires to refresh themselves and change their gear for the game two assignments, the Fish apparently mislaid their bats and, with them, the chance to gain a firmer grip on their postseason destiny.
Joplin lefthanded starting pitcher Christian Cedeño blanked the Mudcats on one hit in four innings before having to depart with an apparent finger injury and sidearming righthanded no-notice replacement Trenton Moeller tacked on three innings of 1-hit shutout relief to lead the Outlaws to a 7-0 triumph in the nightcap.
The split of the doubleheader, which left Chillicothe with a disappointing split of its 6-games season set with the club solidly in the South Division basement meant the Mudcats settled for only a half-game improvement in their status, relative to Clarinda. The A’s lost at Sedalia.
At night’s end, Chillicothe – after briefly reaching .500 in the league for the first time since july 2 – owned a 17-18 record in MINK League competition with the A’s at 14-18.
On Monday, the opportunities of Sunday will be flipped. It will be the Mudcats having to call on the rampaging Bombers, owners of 7-straight victories – three of them over the Fish – and Clarinda playing twice against one of the South’s poorer teams. The only difference will be Clarinda’s double-dip will be at Jefferson City, rather than at home.
Assuming the games come off as scheduled, Chillicothe could head into Tuesday either a more-secure three games ahead of the A’s in the standings, tied (although still percentage points ahead), or something in-between.
Jack Winters, Mudcats head/pitching coach, says he intends to start righthander Zack Mathes (2-2) against Sedalia a third time Monday, then see where the standings are before plotting his future pitching plans for Tuesday’s home game against North leader St. Joseph and beyond.
Sunday’s double dose of Mudcats baseball was a meal of the sweet and sour.
In the late-afternoon contest, an opportunistic, 3-hits, 4-runs second inning gave Hansen (3-1) a nice margin with which to work and the lefthander protected it, despite some latter-game unsteadiness.
“Hansen made pitches when he had to,” Winters said, noting the promising Grand Canyon University sophomore-to-be lefty regrouped after getting a bit timid with his fastball as the game wore on.
After Chillicothe seized the sizable lead against Joplin starting and losing pitcher Dalton Weaver, it added a run in the fourth, making it 5-0. The Fish then responded to a 3-runs double by Outlaws leadoff man Zack Ehlen in the top of the fifth with a single run in their half and then two off a reliever in the sixth to win comfortably.
The Mudcats’ assault in the opener was led by swifty Ramger Iglesias, who has swung a more-productive bat than might have been expected of leadoff man.
The switch-hitter from the Bronx in New York City went four for four with two doubles, two runs batted in, two runs scored, and a stolen base. He leads the club in runs scored with 33 and the theft was his 26th, second-most in the league
“Any time you get Ramger on base, he’s the ultimate threat,” Winters said of the Bloomfield College speedster.
The RBI were his 16th and 17th and the four hits temporarily moved his batting average to .341.
“Complementing the speed with clutch hitting makes him even more dangerous,” Winters reflected on Iglesias’ ability to bring in runs, as weel as score them.
Chillicothe’s decisive salvo in the second inning began with catcher DeVonte Washington’s leadoff single to left field. After Tanner Baker was hit by a pitch, designated hitter Bryce Bisenius singled up the middle and Washington hurried home standing up.
A walk to Kenny Jarema – his league-high 32nd of the year – loaded the bases for Iglesias, whose second hit of the game was a 2-runs double to left-center field. That made it 3-0.
Following a hit batsman and a forceout at home plate, Justin Blasinski tapped out softly to the third baseman, who had no chance to get Iglesias racing home from third.
It was Blasinski’s team-leading 37th RBI, tying him with 2008 Mudcats slugger Dominic D’Anna for third-most in a season in team history. Only early Mudcats stalwart Travis Dunlap (45 in 2003) and 2011 slugger Zach Esquerra (40) have plated more tallies.
The last three Mudcats runs of the game after Joplin had tightened things on Ehlen’s double were driven home by right fielder Tanner Baker with a fifth-inning RBI double to left and sixth-inning 2-runs double to nearly the same spot. Baker quietly now is tied with Bisenius for second-most runs batted in on the team with 24.
With a doubleheader and series sweep in reach as game two began, the home team simply never got anything going against the Cedeño-Moeller tandem, although it did manage to leave nine runners on base in the 7-innings contest despite having only two hits – a Kody Gardner single in the thir and Blasinski double in the sixth.
Mudcats starter pitcher Blake Collister (0-2) worked around pair of 1-out hits in the first to keep Joplin off the scoreboard through two innings, striking out four.
In the third, however, three singles, a hit batter, and wild pitch became two runs even as he was striking out the side. When the first three batters in the fourth singled, loading the bases, he was pulled, but ended up being charged with five runs as all three men reliever Jerald Johnston inherited plus two of his own scored.
On the bright side, third pitcher Nate Wenson set down all six batters he faced in the sixth and seventh.