Gloves, arms, bats all had role in failure to build on momentum from Wednesday comeback win over St. Joseph as Fish fell to Jefferson City 8-6 in MINK League baseball
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Any potential positive, if intangible, residual effect from their come-from-behind win at St. Joseph last Wednesday was buried under an avalanche of physical blunders the Chillicothe Mudcats had Friday night in their 8-6 MINK League home loss to the Jefferson City Renegades.
Hosting a team they had handled twice on the Renegades’ home field the prior week, the Mudcats were off their game Friday, particularly after they failed to fully exploit a promising, initial offensive flurry.
Four of six Chillicothe batters hit safely in the bottom of the first inning and a fifth delivered a run with a scoring fly ball, but when the fourth hit resulted in a runner being thrown out at home plate for the third out, that sacrifice fly produced the only run the Mudcats managed through seven innings.
Then, having fallen behind 7-1 with a combination of multiple errors and pitchers being battered for double-digits hits, wildness by Jefferson City bullpen arms and its first hits since the first frame offered Chillicothe a reprieve that, while considered, eventually was turned down.
Issued four walks and stroking three singles in the bottom of the eighth, the Mudcats closed to within 7-6 and had the tying and leading runs in scoring position with only one out.
However, with the Renegades on shaky ground, the Fish reverted to their silent offensive ways. The next two Chillicothe batters struck out to end the eighth with the team still down a run and, after Jefferson City added an insurance run with 3-straight 2-outs singles in the top of the ninth, the Mudcats went down in order in the ninth.
The defeat dipped Chillicothe, despite a recent upturn, back to a season-worst-matching five games under .500 at 7-12. It went to 7-11 in league play, still decisively in last place in the North Division.
Friday’s game saw little go right for the home team, even when it was seemingly doing well.
Both of its scoring innings could have produced more damage, but missed chances.
In the first inning, Peyton Cormane’s leadoff single and league-high 21st stolen base in as many attempts led to his crossing the plate on Jack Cavanaugh’s fly ball to right field.
However, when Dalton Robison followed Gaven Strobel’s 2-outs single with another, Mudcat Andrew Williams was cut down at the plate, despite a fairly-high tag by the catcher, to end the inning with Chillicothe up only 1-0.
Then, after going hitless from the second inning through the seventh, when the Fish did not get even or over the hump with their eighth-inning offensive awakening, the chance to compound the benefits of their win at St. Joseph slipped away.
While Chillicothe bats were silent most of the night, Jefferson City was tagging four of the Mudcats’ five pitchers for 13 hits, while accepting a half-dozen bases on balls and four hit batters. More than half of the Renegades’ hits came in only three innings of facing the struggling Chillicothe bullpen.
All night, the home team’s pitchers were undermined by lackluster defensive support, although some of the miscues were self-inflicted. The five Mudcats errors all came in the last four innings and involved an array of flubs – two wild throws, two bobbled ground balls, and even a missed infield popup. Two of the miscues were by pitchers.
The end result of the defensive failures was five unearned Jefferson City runs. The Renegades, by contrast, fielded flawlessly.
In an ironic twist, several Chillicothe relief pitchers were at their best cleaning up others’ messes, but then created their own.
Replacing starter and loser Trae Brownell (1-2) to begin the sixth inning, Noah McClanahan threw away a sacrifice bunt and retired only one of five men he faced before James “River” Wright from Bucklin rescued him from a bases-full jam by getting a quick strikeout and groundout. The final out required first baseman Williams making a fine, backhand pick of a throw in the dirt to prevent an error and at least one more run.
When Wright took the mound again in the seventh with a fresh slate, he lost his way, too.
A long double, Wright’s error, a walk loaded the bases with no outs. Two singles followed, ballooning Jefferson City’s lead to 7-4 and causing another hurler to be summoned.
Inheriting two runners, Ricky Espinoza benefitted from second baseman Luke Schwartz’ high-leaping snare of a line drive that segued into a double play at second base. The reliever then hit the next two batters to load the bases before getting the third out on a strikeout.
However, after his teammates closed the gap from six runs to one in the home eighth, Espinoza surrendered the three 2-outs singles that added an extra run to the Renegades’ lead before Hayden House came on with the bases full to prevent any additional scoring.
Chillicothe’s eighth-inning bid to rescue the game began with consecutive walks from the first Jeff City reliever. Chillicothean Derek Hussey then loaded the bases with a soft single to short right-center field, the first Fish hit since the first frame.
Another walk - to Williams – forced in a run before Cavanaugh netted his second and third runs batted in of the game with a poke into right field. That cut the lead to 7-4 and led to a pitching change.
The new hurler walked Strobel to reload the bases, still with no one out. Robison lifted a scoring fly ball to right with Cavanaugh taking third and Nate Gawelko’s opposite-way grounder slipped through the right side pulled Chillicothe within one. However, that’s where the comeback died.
Statistically, beyond Cavanaugh’s three RBI, the most noteworthy stat was Cormane being thrown out – on a disputed call – trying to steal to end the fifth. That left him sharing the team record for consecutive successful steals (21) with Trevor Jones, who set it in 2013.