Use seven runs in second, Maly's 3-hits work over seven innings to subdue MINK League North leader St. Joseph 9-1 at home Tuesday, July 18. Keep 2-1/2 games lead for league playoffs berth.
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Behind a dazzling, yet gritty, performance from Trevor Maly and a huge second inning, the Chillicothe Mudcats took a large step toward securing the North Division’s third-place spot in the upcoming MINK League playoffs with a 9-1 home triumph over the league-leading St. Joseph Mustangs Tuesday.
Previously 0-3 against their western neighbors this summer, the Mudcats (23-19, 18-19 MINK) stayed 2-1/2 games ahead of pursuer Clarinda, Iowa, while outgunned Jefferson City’s Renegades 12-8. By carving another day off the calendar, Chillicothe improved its odds of extending its play into the postseason next week.
“We’re just taking it a day at a time, not reading into the standings all that much,” Jack Winters, Mudcats first-year head coach, commented following the victory. “Just worrying about the game that’s ahead of us.”
Maly, who didn’t become a regular member of the starting rotation until midseason, but now is 5-0, escaped third-inning trouble with only one run allowed, then took charge. Despite having an issue with a finger on his pitching hand which had some skin that was becoming abraded, he yielded only one hit and three baserunners over the next four innings.
Highlighted by his fanning the side in the top of the sixth – giving him whiffs of five of six Mustangs in that mid-game stretch, the St. Andrews University hurler retired 10 of the last 11 men he faced to win his third start in a row. He had four 1-2-3 innings before Hunter Morris finished up with three strikeouts in the last two innings.
“What was working for him were his fastball and his 2-seam fastball, which essentially made his fastball two different pitches,” Winters observed, concerning Maly’s effectiveness.
In addition to Maly’s sterling work, Tuesday’s game saw Kenny Jarema’s discerning eye and bat control break a 9-years-old team record.
As had become increasingly inevitable over the past 10 days, the infielder from Misericordia University in his home state of Pennsylvania surpassed Tyler Knight’s 2008 standard for walks received in a season. Jarema tied the mark accepting a bases-full pass in the Mudcats’ big second inning, then broke it with his 37th base on balls in the fifth. He moved further toward reestablishing the record somewhere in the 40s by taking his 38th in the eighth.
Although his batting average is only in the low .200s, Jarema’s on-base percentage is a lofty .465, tied for the team’s best with Anthony Lantigua.
The Mudcats and Mustangs will meet in Chillicothe’s “June” Shaffer Memorial Park stadium again Thursday night at 7:05 in the Fish’s last home game of 2017 (barring advancement to the league championship series).
As of press time, Winters hadn’t determined his starting pitcher for that game yet, although there are indications he might be leaning to righthander Chris Peres, who has not thrown against St. Joseph previously.
St. Joseph’s loss Tuesday didn’t cost it what it could have. Second-place Sedalia fell just short in its comeback bid against South Division leader Ozark, losing 11-10 at home. That kept the Ponies 2-1⁄2 lengths in front with about a half-dozen games to go.
After mounting a threat without a hit in the first inning, Chillicothe plated its first run without hitting safely in the second inning. Once hits began to be collected the second time through the batting order, that second frame mushroomed into a giant outburst.
DeVonte Washington, thrust into defensive action some place other than behind the plate by the previous night’s injury to center fielder Kody Gardner, ignited the explosion by working a walk. Designated hitter Bryce Bisenius then pushed a hard grounder toward the hole at shortstop that was fielded cleanly, but the hurried throw to second for a would-be forceout was wide to the outfield side of the bag and pulled the second baseman off it. The throwing error opened the door for a possible big inning and the Mudcats swam through – with additional help initially.
Mustangs righthander Matt Diaz followed the miscue behind him by handing out two more free passes in succession to Cris Cabral and Kenny Jarema, the latter forcing Washington home with the contest’s first run. More soon followed.
That brought the top of the Chillicothe lineup around for its second look at Diaz and that produced very positive results for the hosts.
Leadoff man Ramger Iglesias, a surprisingly-potent run producer from the top of the order this summer – possible, in part, because of Jarema’s walks-fueled, lofty on-base percentage, worked Diaz to a full count, including fouling a couple of 2-strikes deliveries. Finally, on pitch No. 8 he saw, the New Yorker stung a bases-full line drive into the gap in left-center field. It scored two easily and sent Jarema to third while speedster Iglesias floated into second without a play.
Tanner Baker, who shifted to center field from right for the first time in Gardner’s absence, chopped a 3-1 pitch right up the middle into center for a 2-runs single and, even though they had only two hits in the game, the Mudcats were up 5-0.
With the luxury of a still-solid lead over Sedalia in the North Division race allowing them to be patient with Diaz in the hope of not running through a bunch of relievers, the Mustangs stuck with their starting pitcher, even though he’d yet to retire any of the six Fish he’d faced in the inning and had set down only three of the first 11 in the game.
He was not able to get either of the next two, either, as Anthony Lantigua – named the MINK League player of the week for the prior week a day earlier – beat out a soft bouncer to third and Justin Blasinski walked.
With the bases again jammed, the Mustangs pitcher finally got his first out of the inning, only to have Washington – in his second appearance of the second – grounding a single through the left side to plate two more Chillicothe markers.
When Diaz followed with his second hit batter of the game, St. Joseph finally made the overdue call to its bullpen, facing a 7-0 deficit.
Although the Ponies tried to push back in the next half-inning, scoring once on a bases-loaded walk of their own, when Maly got an easy, force-play bouncer from cleanup man Cody Pogue to strand three, it proved to be the last serious challenge St. Joseph mounted.
“They have a lot of veteran players, a lot of upperclassmen, so going down 7-0 after two, those guys aren’t going to pack it in,” Winters noted. They’re still going to play the game hard. We still had to earn the win.”
“…It was nice to see us play a strong nine and not just a strong two.”
While Maly’s performance marks him as a starter Winters likely would want to use, if the race came down to the final game at Clarinda next Monday, his high pitch count (129) Tuesday might make it problematic.
If the Mudcats happen to have clinched third place by then, however, with the do-or-die game against the second-place finisher not until Thursday, July 26, the righty from Illinois could get the call for that one, particularly with probable foe Sedalia having seen him for only one inning during the regular campaign.
Statistically Tuesday, the Mudcats out-hit the Mustangs 8-3, made no errors while their foes had three, and drew eight bases on balls to five for the visitors. Chillicothe also limited its strikeouts to five, compared to St. Joseph’s 11. Every Mustang except one fanned.
Individually, Baker, batting high in the lineup for the first time all season, finished two for four with two runs scored and the two knocked in.
In addition to handling two routine fly balls without incident in right field, Washington also had the two RBI and was on base twice in five plate appearances. Although played only about one-third of the time as part of the catcher rotation, he has the team’s third-best on-base percentage at .435, behind only co-leaders Jarema and Lantigua.