Mudcats nearly dug out of 14-1 hole after three innings at Joplin Monday night, closing to within 15-14 in the seventh inning before falling 16-14 in MINK League play
JOPLIN, Mo. — Their pitching staff “shot to pieces,” as “Lucky Ned” Pepper’s self-described after his showdown with “Rooster” Cogburn in “True Grit,” by seven games in six nights – including three extra-innings affairs, the Chillicothe (Mo.) Mudcats staggered home late Monday night and early Tuesday morning to a most-welcomed day off after a wild, wacky tour of southwest Missouri MINK League sites.
On the heels of a harder-than-need-be 16-14 11-innings triumph over the host Joplin Outlaws (3-7, 2-7 MINK) Sunday night – the second-highest-scoring game in Mudcats history, the two clubs improbably repeated that final score Monday, only this time with Joplin on top.
And that only tells part of the story of the fitting, if fitful, finale of a visit to Springfield to face the Ozark Generals three times and to Joplin for three there during a 9-games string of consecutive MINK League road games.
The set against Ozark began with a scheduled 7-innings opening game of a doubleheader going twice that long and consuming – with a 30-minutes power outage and later brief delay when the Meador Park stadium’s sprinkler system automatically activated – nearly five hours before the Mudcats won out 10-8.
Even with a quick second game cut from the scheduled nine to seven innings by the length of the opener, the squads didn’t leave the stadium until after 12:30 a.m.
Returning the next night, they played into extra innings once more, this time Ozark winning in the 10th.
Things didn’t normalize when the Fish reached Joplin as Chilli-cothe blew a 4-0 lead its starting pitcher left it after seven innings and the Outlaws prevailed in a “ride-off,” 5-4.
The inability to protect a lead was repeated Sunday when four times in the first nine innings the visitors had leads of three runs or more before having to rally themselves from a 1-run deficit in the top of the ninth before eventually prevailing 16-14 in 11 innings.
Any potential for drama from Monday night’s series finale in the Jasper County seat seemed to vanish when, with a strong wind blowing out to left field at Joe Becker Stadium, the Outlaws ripped three third-inning home runs – two of them back-to-back solo shots – off starting and losing pitcher Tristen Sewell (0-1) during what became of mind-blowing 13-runs inning.
By the time the assault of the oft-used lefthanded Chillicothe resident, who was making his first start and sixth appearance in the team’s first 12 games, and reliever Gabriel Seijas, Joplin had an apparently-commanding 14-1 lead going to the fourth.
However, when Mudcats third baseman Cole Taylor led off the top of the fourth with a home run of his own, foreshadowing that much intrigue was still to come.
With Seijas settling in after being pelted for four hits, issuing three walks, and being charged with five of the third-inning tallies, a Chillicothe comeback began to pick up steam.
Peyton Cormane’s 2-runs home run highlighted a 3-runs Mud-cats fifth that made it 14-5. After a 2-outs solo home run by Joplin first baseman Joseph Kinder – his second of the game – added to the hosts’ lead in the home fifth, Chillicothe countered with two more runs in the sixth.
Still down by eight as the seventh began, Chillicothe (3-9, 3-8 MINK) made its big move against lefthanded reliever Jack Strieker.
An error opened the door and, following a strikeout, the Fish poured through.
Dalton Robison’s run-scoring single was followed by Luke Schwartz hit and a 2-runs double by Andrew Williams. It was 15-10.
Following a fielder’s choice on which Williams was tagged out in a rundown, Cormane got a 2-outs hit. That gave hot Chillicothean Derek Hussey, who already had two runs batted in on the night, a chance to bat in the inning. He capitalized with a 2-runs double which drew the Mudcats to within three runs.
A new pitcher, Connor Burnett, walked the first man he faced, then made a pitch too good to Nate Gawelko. The lefthanded hitter poled a 2-runs triple, shrinking Joplin’s once-huge lead to a single run, 15-14, with still seven outs to get.
With the potential tying run only 90 feet from the plate, the possible lead run in the batter’s box, and seemingly all the momentum in the world, a shocking and historic Chillicothe victory seemed almost preordained at that juncture. Almost.
Burnett stranded Gawelko with a strikeout and, impro bably, worked a hitless, scoreless eighth, working around a 1-out error that again left the tying run in scoring position.
After Spenser Larson hit the Outlaws’ sixth roundtripper of the game off third Mudcats pitcher Noah McClanahan, who had succeeded Seijas to start the sixth, righthander Jordan Musser was summoned for the top of the ninth. He retired the top three in the Chillicothe order, who were a combined eight for 14 with two home runs and seven runs scored to that point, on two strikeouts and a game-ending tap to first.
Statistically, Williams’ 4-for-5 night with two RBI, Hussey’s 3-for-6 effort with four ribbies, Cormane’s 3-for-6 game with a homer, three driven in and three more steals, and Gawelko’s three runs knocked in shared the Chillicothe spotlight.