Guest Ozark Generals use 3-runs ninth in doubleheader opener to gain 9-8 come-from-behind triumph, then blank Fish 5-0 in seven in nightcap
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — From the mid 1930s to around 1950, Joe Louis (Joseph Louis Barrow) became a boxing legend, his powerful punches leaving many of his ring opponents needing stitches as he became the longest-reigning heavyweight champion ever.
In that same era, Joe E. Lewis (Joseph Kiewan), after surviving a horrible assault by Chicago mobsters, enjoyed a successful entertainment career in acting, singing, and as a comedian in part because he could use punchlines to leave audience members in stitches.
Late Monday night, after his Ozark Generals teammates had rallied and out-lasted the Chillicothe Mudcats 9-8 in nine innings in game one of a MINK League doubleheader at Chillicothe’s “June” Shaffer Memorial Park stadium, lefthanded pitcher Joe Lewis (presumably his real name) used his fingers’ skill in gripping the stitches of a baseball to “punch out” (strike out) nine Mudcats in throwing a 7-innings, complete-game, 5-0 shutout which completed the Generals’ sweep of the twinbill.
Lewis kept Chillicothe (10-18, 9-17 MINK) hitless into the fourth inning, then tap-danced out of danger in three consecutive frames as slump-stumped Chillicothe left a runner at second base in the fourth, men on each bag in the fifth, and, finally, first and third in the sixth. In each of the latter two innings, a Fish stood at third base with one out, never to budge.
Finishing with a flourish, the lefthander got four of his last five outs on whiffs to wrap up the double-dip sweep and extend the Mudcats’ losing streak to six in a row, entering Tuesday night’s 6:05 p.m. (time change from 7:05) series finale.
Ozark, which clinched the 6-games season series against the Mudcats with its fourth victory in five tries thus far, improved to 15-12 overall and 13-12 in the league.
The first game of Monday’s doubleheader in Chillicothe opened promisingly for the host when it seized a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning, despite having only one hit in the frame. Connor Quick and Peyton Cormane had run-producing fielder’s choice grounders in the second and a 2-outs passed ball following Cormane’s league-leading 26th and 27th steals made it 3-zip.
Ozark pecked away with single runs in the third and fourth – one of them unearned – before fifth-inning doubles by Nick Ray and Nico Burgarello put Chillicothe ahead 4-2 after five.
The Generals then turned three hits, a walk, and two costly Mudcats miscues into four runs – three unearned – in the top of the sixth inning of the slated 7-innings contest to surge ahead, 6-4.
The Mudcats quickly countered against an Ozark relief pitcher, using a hit batsman, Jack Cavanaugh’s double, a run-scoring wild pitch, and pinch-hitter Dalton Robison’s sacrifice fly to pull even at 6-6 after six.
Despite scoring chances for both teams in each of the next two innings, the game remained tied going to the top of the ninth. Then, against tiring Chillicothe reliever Preston Ludwick, who was making his debut with the Mudcats and went three innings, Ozark rapped four hits to score three runs.
To the Mudcats’ credit, with their backs against the wall in the bottom of the ninth, they came close to forcing even more “free baseball.” Spurred by Derek Hussey’s double and 2-outs, run-scoring singles by Luke Schwartz and Cole Taylor, the Fish closed to within 9-8. However, with both the potential tying and winning runs on base at second and first, respectively, a groundout ended the game anc continued Chillicothe’s skid.
Mudcats Hussey, Taylor, and Ray had two hits each in the opener.
In the second game, before Lewis even had a chance to display his wares on the bump, his Ozark teammates – aided by a game-starting Chillicothe throwing error – gave him a 3-runs cushion to work with. The error was followed by a walk, a RBI double to right field, and a 2-runs single off starting and losing pitcher Tristen Sewell (0-2).
With Lewis dealing for the Generals, Sewell’s steadying after that initial onslaught and new reliever Ryann Gray’s sharp debut with Chillicothe – 1-2/3 hitless, scoreless innings – served only to keep Ozark in range, but initiate a comeback by the home side.
Ozark ended up with an 8-4 advantage in hits in game two, which finished as Chillicothe’s second shutout loss in its last four games.