Sacrifice flies by Ray in eighth and Cavanaugh in bottom of ninth make Gawelko into a winning pitcher in 4-3 triumph over Springfield Redbirds June 23, 2018
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — In increasingly-intensifying need of turning around their almost-half-finished 2018 season, the Chillicothe Mudcats college-level, wood- bat baseball team took a step in that different direction Saturday night (June 23) with some effective role reversal.
Jack Cavanaugh – recruited last winter primarily as a pitcher, but starting in right field for the fourth time in the last five games – delivered the game-winning run in a 4-3 home win over the Springfield Redbirds, a non-league opponent, with a walk-off sacrifice fly.
Cavanaugh’s RBI made a winning pitcher out of surprise relief pitcher Nate Gawelko, who has started the most games in right field for the team this summer, but now might be headed toward a significant late-inning role on the hill, head coach Caleb Bound suggested afterward.
The Chillicothe victory was its second in as many tries in non-league play thus far. Improving to 8-12 entering Sunday’s MINK League contest at Jefferson City, the Mudcats will host Springfield once more next month.
Chillicothe never led the quick (2:13), generally-crisply-played, game until it won, the Mudcats capitalized on two Redbirds errors in the bottom of the ninth inning to break a 3-3 tie the hosts had forged on Nick Ray’s sacrifice fly to right field in the bottom of the eighth.
Nico Burgarello’s fisted single down the left-field line began the Chillicothe ninth after righthander Gawelko surprisingly had been inserted to pitch to start the top of the eighth and not only had retired all six batters, but struck out four.
Following the leadoff hit, newly-returned Jonathan Carratala – out about 10 days with a leg muscle injury – hit into a forceout at second base, but ended up there himself when the throw to first on the Redbirds’ double-play attempt skipped into the Springfield dugout.
Cole Taylor then ripped a hot, 2-hop skimmer right at the Redbirds’ second baseman. While not fielded cleanly, the ball dropped right in front of the infielder with time to still throw the batter out at first. However, in his haste, the second baseman fumbled the pickup attempt just long enough for the hustling Taylor to just beat the play at first.
With runners at the corners and one out, the unaffiliated Springfield opted to replace starting pitcher Jacob Galbraith, who threw quite well, with shortstop Jonah Williamson.
Working carefully with a base open, the reliever fell behind cleanup man Andrew Williams 3-1, then intentionally threw ball four high to set up a forceout at any base.
When the first two pitches to Cavanaugh missed the strike zone, he was able to narrow of his area of pitches he would swing at. When the 2-0 offering was in that reduced space, he was ready, lifting a slicing fly ball to the opposite field and perhaps 210-220 feet from home plate. Because the ball off the bat of the righthanded hitter kept drifting toward the right field line, the right fielder could not get into a favorable throwing position before making the catch. With the ball still about 15 feet fair, once the ball was in the outfielder’s leather, the tagged-up Carratala easily sped down the line from third base with the game-ending run.
The non-league Redbirds took leads of 2-0 in the third inning and 3-2 in the sixth, but ultimately could not hold them.
After Chillicothe starting pitcher Kent Frantz, making his second start since recently joining the club, surrendered the two third-inning tallies on three hits, his teammates immediately got him square.
No. 9 batter Cole Johnson ripped the first of his three hits in the game down the left-field line for a double to open the Chillicothe half of the third. With one out, Carratala laced a high drive to deep center that the retreating Springfield flyhawk, battling the evening sun a bit as he made a long run, got a glove on, but could not catch. By the time the ball came in, Carratala was pulling into third with a run-scoring triple.
On the third pitch of Taylor’s following at-bat, a pitch got away and Carratala scored without a play, tying things at 2-2.
With the visitors having reclaimed the upper hand in the sixth with an unearned run off initial reliever Evan Glaze (Norborne/North Central Missouri Coll.), Chillicothe was down to its last four outs before again catching up.
Dalton Robison reached on an infield hit in the hole at shortstop to begin the home eighth. Pinch runner Peyton Cormane scurried to second base on a very short passed ball and Jared Fry’s well-placed sacrifice bunt advanced him to third. That allowed Ray’s fly to medium right to plate Cormane with the equalizer.
Statistically Saturday, Chillicothe out-hit the Redbirds 10-6 and also had only one error, compared to the foe’s four. Johnson’s 3-for-4 game and Carratala’s two hits and two runs scored paced the attack.