Preceding regularly-scheduled MINK League game at Clarinda, action will resume in ninth inning of crazy game begun in Chillicothe. After rallying from 8-0 deficit after two innings to tie game 13-13 after eight, contest will pick up with A's leading 15-13 in top of ninth
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CLARINDA, Iowa — When MINK League baseball's Chillicothe Mudcats and Clarinda A's pick up their June 15 game – halted in Chillicothe, due to lightning – at Clarinda's Municipal Stadium tonight at 6 p.m., assuming the approximately 25 percent chance of thunderstorms doesn’t come to pass, it presumably will bring to an end, at last, what rates as Chillicothe’s craziest game of the season – win or lose.
The contest saw the visiting A’s burst to an 8-0 lead in the second inning, then answer a Chillicothe comeback which drew the Mudcats within 9-7 after six with a seemingly-decisive four runs in the seventh that took the margin back up to six, 13-7.
However, Chillicothe score four times after having two outs in the eighth to complete a 6-runs rally which – with threatening weather advancing toward Chillicothe – sent the game into the ninth all even, 13-13.
As if that hadn’t been enough, the Iowans then put their first five batters of the ninth on against then-Mudcats’ closer Austin Gussman via three walks, a single, and a hit batsman to push across two runs with no outs.
Along the way, controversy over an umpire’s no-swing checked-swing call on a pitch which several neutral observers tracking the game believed to produce the third ball on the batter instead was pronounced by the home plate umpire to be ball four. The discussion which ensued quickly became an argument and then ejection of Winters and a player from the Chillicothe dugout. For that reason, Winters will not be allowed to be involved with Friday’s concluding part of the game, although he can return for the regularly-scheduled game.
Following the argument, which preceded the hit batsman which forced home the 15th A’s run, Gussman was replaced on the hill by Nate Wenson. With his first pitch, the righthander got an infield popup for the first out, keeping the bases full.
Then, as the next batter could step in, the umpires determined lightning was near enough to the stadium to warrant a halt in play for safety reasons. When some rain started about 30 seconds later, the umpires, coaches, and Doug Doughty, Mudcata general manager, quickly huddled and declared play was over for the night and the game suspended until a future date.
Ironically, adding to the strange proceedings of the evening, the threatening weather somewhat-surprisingly passed through without much rain and with a cessation of lightning in about a half-hour and the game theoretically could have been resumed, had not the umpires and A’s departed.
Under baseball rules for a suspended game, play is picked up as if there had not been a stoppage. All players and pitchers in the game at the time of the stoppage or having been replaced previously continue in that status. Since Wenson – unlike a good number of his fellow pitchers of mid-June – still is around, he’ll be back on the hill when play re-commences.
Defensively, with Bryce Bisenius, who started at first base, and catchers Cris Cabral and DeVonte Washington – that night’s original DH before being replaced in that role by Justin Blasinski in the sixth – all already replaced during the game, pitcher/infielder Chris Peres – now sidelined for the season with a back problem – having been used as a relief pitcher earlier, and shorstop Josh Urps and center fielder Christian Hoplock now gone with an injuries of their own, Winters will have to scramble to fill his lineup, both offensively and defensively.
Presumably, regular shortstop Ramger Iglesias, who had come off the bench to play second during the game, will slide over to his normal position and Anthony Lantigua, who had replaced Bisenius at first base, will shift to second.
However, with Dawsen Bacho, who has played the most first base of any Mudcat of late and done so with increasing alacrity, already in the game at catcher and neither of the other receivers available, a first baseman then would be needed, as well as an outfielder. One will take Urps’ spot in the lineup, making him the first batter in the bottom of the ninth, and the other will occupy Hoplock’s No. 2 spot, which would come up fifth, should that spot come around.
The simplest replacement scenario would be inserting Chillicothean Ty Figg, recently added as an “insurance policy” after Hoplock’s departure, in the outfield and early-July pitcher/first baseman addition Jase Dalton at first. Figg probably would go to left field with Kody Gardner, now the regular center fielder following Hoplock’s departure, moving from there to center, and standout right fielder Tanner Baker staying put.
However, Winters and assistant coach Ken Durling could opt to switch Blasinski from the DH role to play his normal left field. That would force the insertion of Wenson into the batting order – either in the first-man-up spot in the ninth or in Hoplock’s vacated position. For the Mudcats to pull out the win with a rally in the bottom of the ninth, Hoplock’s former spot almost-certainly would roll around, probably necessitating a pinch-hitter for Wenson. In turn, should the game finish nine innings tied again, batting for Wenson would necessitate using at least one more arm and potentially more, if the game were to extend to multiple extra innings.
In theory, if Wenson can prevent additional scoring in the top of the ninth or limit further damage to one run, Chillicothe could produce a winning rally with only four batters coming to the plate in the home ninth, but that is quite a long-shot.
Earlier in the summer, Winters noted another of his normal pitchers – believed to be Zack Mathes – has some college or summer experience playing a defensive position other than pitcher. Using him probably would be a last-resort measure, if an injury occurred and forced further shuffling.
On the Clarinda side, immediately before the suspension of action, it had sent Victor Perez to the plate as an announced pinch-hitter for its shortstop and one of its better players, Mondesi Gutierrez, so he’ll be the first to face Wenson and Gutierrez will not be available for defense in the bottom of the ninth.
Two other A’s starters of that game – Alec Paz and Drew Holtgrieve – also had been removed and cannot return, although their replacements are still with the team and can return to their positions.
Two other starters who, a check of Clarinda box scores for the past week shows have not been playing of late, presumably are no longer with the A’s and will have to be replaced – at least defensively – are center fielder Morris Joseph “Mojo” Hagge and second baseman Wyatt Ball. Both had batted already in the ninth, but, while Hagge had scored, Ball was the runner at second base at the time of the stoppage. If, as suspected, he is no longer available, a pinch-runner for him will have to be inserted.
The check of recent Clarinda box scores shows it apparently has added a significant player to its roster since the teams last saw each other on June 15.
Garrett Calvert has been batting fourth or fifth in most games the past week, while playing infield positions and also pitching some. Given his apparently-potent bat, the expectation would be that – again assuming Hagge’s and Ball’s absence – he would be slipped into Hagge’s No. 2 spot in the lineup and Hagge’s replacement would become the replacement runner for Ball in the No. 4 slot, so that Calvert would come to bat sooner, if required.
As for Clarinda’s pitcher for the bottom of the ninth, it apparently still has the hurler who finished the eighth, lefthander Samuel Reed, available. The A’s closer when last the teams saw each other, but cuffed a bit by the Mudcats after entering during their tying eighth-inning rally, Reed appeared in the Iowans’ game this past Tuesday, so he seemingly still is with the team.
The A’s had used six pitchers prior to Reed’s entrance on June 15, while Wenson was Chillicothe’s fourth. Two of Wenson’s predecessors – Peres and Gussman – no longer are available anyway and the third – starter Tyler Hansen – is slated to be the team’s starting pitcher for tonight’s full game. That technically puts Hansen in line to be the starting pitcher of both games which are to be officially concluded this evening.