Tighten MINK League baseball North Division race for third place with 19-13 victory in completion of suspended June 15 game and 6-2 triumph in regularly-scheduled contest. Teams now tied in "lost" column with few games left.
CLARINDA, Iowa — The Chillicothe Mudcats’ best chance of advancing closer to qualifying for the MINK League playoffs Friday was in the full-length, originally-scheduled game they’d play after they and Clarinda A’s wrapped up their June 15 game which was suspended with the Iowa team ahead 15-13.
After the Iowa team emphatically wrapped up the previously-begun game 19-13, A’s pitcher Garrett Herrmann and one big inning squashed Chillicothe’s hopes of a split of the hybrid action.
Herrmann spaced out eight Mudcats hits over seven innings, permitting only a first-inning run, and the A’s jumped Chillicothe starter Tyler Hansen for five hits and five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to set up an eventual 6-2 triumph.
The two wins added to the Clarinda line in the league standings and the two losses for Chillicothe left the Mudcats – who have played and won two more league games than the Iowans – tenuously still grasping third place and the final playoffs berth in the league’s North Division. However, because both the Fish and A’s finished Friday night with 21 losses, each still had control of their postseason destiny in its own hands (see related story on the C-T Sports webpage).
Chillicothe (24-21 overall, 19-21 MINK) will try to defeat the team with the league’s best overall and league records – the St. Joseph Mustangs – a third time in five nights Saturday. This time, the game will be at the Mustangs’ home park, Phil Welch Stadium.
Jack Winters, Mudcats head/pitching coach, had ststed previously that Zack Mathes (2-3) will start Satuday’s 7 p.m. game. The righthander has started against the Mustangs twice previously and shut them out on seven hits over 11 innings, but on both occasions St. Joseph beat the Chillicothe bullpen and won the game.
Friday’s results at Clarinda made certain that the Mudcats will not be able to finish with a winning league record this year, although they have clinched no worse than a .500 final mark overall.
That they would end up on the short end of the continuation game was not certain, but seemed probable, since the action resumed with Clarinda not only ahead by two runs in the top of the ninth inning, but also with the bases loaded and only one out.
Any realistic hope the Mudcats had of pulling the game out by stranding those three runners and then at least tying the game, if not winning it dramatically, in their half of the ninth largely bit the dust when the A’s opening batter of Friday’s resumption – pinch-hitter Victor Perez – vaulted a drive over the head of the Mudcats center fielder for a 2-runs double.
A sacrifice fly and another run-scoring double – A’s leadoff man Danny Mitchell’s fourth hit of the game – tacked on two more insurance runs. Clarinda reliever Samuel Reed then worked an easy 1-2-3 ninth to wrap up Friday’s portion of the game in a mere 12 minutes. The wild action back on June 15 had taken exactly four hours.
Among the many ironies and quirky aspects of the finally-concluded game was that the official losing pitcher for Chillicothe – Austin Gussman, who began the ninth inning on June 15 – no longer is with the team. In fact, some eight days after he left, three more runs were charged to his official 2017 season ledger when all three runners on base at the start of Friday’s action scored. Gussman, who got off to a tremendous start in early June and became the team’s “closer,’ thus finished with a 3-3 won-lost record after once being 3-0.
Statistically, the carryover game finished with the A’s out-hitting the Mudcats 17-12. With its Friday push, Clarinda – which had scored five unearned runs while grabbing an 8-0 lead after two innings last month – ended up with a 14-13 advantage in earned runs.
The full-length contest started well for the visitors, but ended better for the hosts.
With two outs in the top of the first inning, Anthony Lantigua touched Herrmann for an opposite-field single to right, stole second, and scored standing up on Justin Blasinski’s looping single to center.
Mudcats starting pitcher Hansen (3-2), ironically technically the starting pitcher for Chillicothe in both games that went into the books Friday, seemed sharp as he blanked the A’s the first three innings. Helped by inning-ending ground-ball double plays in both the first and second – one of which he started himself, the lefthander faced only 10 batters through three frames.
Once the bottom of the fourth began with a dreaded leadoff walk, though, it became a much-different story.
Following the free pass to Perez, singles by Kale Emshoff and Garrett Calvert loaded the bases with no outs.
Clearly desirous of a third double play, Hansen instead surrendered a booming double to center by Alec Paz, putting the Iowa team in front, 2-1.
A shallow fly out to left kept the runners at second and third, but a grounder up the middle on which Chillicothe reportedly was fortunate to get an out at first plated a third run.
Now only one out away from getting his team back in the dugout behind by only two with still plenty of game left, Arizonan Hansen instead surrendered a run-scoring single, a walk, and another RBI hit to put his team in a 5-1 hole.
Winters switched pitchers at that point, a change which brought positive defensive results as righthander Blake Collister allowed only two hits and one run the rest of the way. That eighth-inning tally charged to the Keytesville, Mo., and North Central Missouri College reliever reportedly would have been avoided were it not for an errant throw which prevented a double play from being finished.
What Collister did went for nought, however, as righthander Herrmann shut the Mudcats out after the first, although not without some nervous moments.
In four of his last six innings, the A’s starter allowed a Fish at least to second base, but stranded them there. In the seventh, a 2-outs threat had Chillicothe runners at second and third, but, with a chance to halve the 4-runs deficit, Kody Gardner flied out.
Herrmann was replaced by lefthander Reed for the eighth, a move which the Mudcats tried to capitalize on.
With one out, lefty-hitting Justin Blasinski yanked his team-leading fourth home run over the fence in right-center field. The solo shot cut the A’s lead to 5-2 and also put Blasinski’s season runs-batted-in total at 41, second-most in team history. Having broken the tie with 2011 Fish Zach Esquerra he’d created with his first-inning RBI single, Blasinski now stands four away from the record of 45 set by original Mudcat Travis Dunlap in his second tour with the club in 2003.
Following Blasinski’s blast, Dawsen Bacho singled to right. An out later, Bryce Bisenius reached when his swinging third strike eluded the Clarinda catcher. Because of that, righthanded-hitting DeVonte Washington stepped in representing the potential tying run at cozy Merle Eberly Field.
Reed responded, however, striking out Washington to end the inning and keep the score at 5-2.
The A’s then got their extra run in the bottom half and recently-added Nigel Nootbar, a University of Southern California Trojan whose athleticism is such that he played center field to finish the suspended game, came in to pitch the ninth. Nootbar got the first man on a roller to second, then fanned the last two to close out his team’s second win of the evening.
Statistically in game two, the Mudcats out-hit Clarinda 10-9 and had the only error, which did not figure in the scoring.
Individually for Chillicothe, Blaskinski was the headliner with his homer, single, and two RBI. Lantigua had two hits, as well, after having had four in the June 15 portion of the suspended contest.