Joplin (Mo.) Outlaws snap 4-4 tie with pair of runs – one unearned – in top of 10th inning, then see Chillicothe (Mo.) club leave bases loaded in bottom half as visitors gain 6-5 MINK League triumph Saturday (July 7, 2018)
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Desperate for every victory they can scratch out as they try to scramble into a MINK League playoffs berth and avoid their first-ever losing season, the Chillicothe Mudcats college-level, wood-bat baseball team did not execute well enough in the clutch – either offensively or defensively – to earn themselves a much-needed victory over the visiting Joplin Outlaws Saturday evening (July 7, 2018).
They also did not catch a break on a critical final-inning play either.
On the verge of a stirring, last-gasp, walk-off triumph, the Fish squandered one last scoring chance in the bottom of the 10th inning Saturday evening, stranding the last three of 14 runners they left on base in a 6-5 MINK League defeat.
After committing two errors to contribute one unearned run to Joplin’s tiebreaking 2-runs top of the 10th, Chillicothe – already having missed multiple opportunities for a key hit with runners in scoring position during the regulation nine innings – received a leadoff triple from Nate Gawelko and an infield hit from Jared Fry to begin the bottom of the 10th.
Having erased half of their deficit, the Fish looked to be on the brink of a winning rally when Peyton Cormane was hit by a pitch while looking to sacrifice bunt and following batter Jonathan Carratala, having initially squared around to consider bunting a 2-strikes delivery, looked to be hit by it as he attempted to twist out of its path.
However, in a much-debated and dubious call, the plate umpire ruled the pitch hit the bat, not Carratala, who had started heading down the first-base line to load the bases. Even when the Mudcat returned to the plate area and raised his jersey to show the impact point on his right lower rib cage, the umpire – who only moments before had initially ruled Cormane had attempted the bunt the pitch that hit him, before reversing the call after consulting with the field umpire – stuck with his call this time, even after again conferring with the field umpire.
The decision on what the ball had contacted then became doubly distressing to both Carratala and Mudcats head coach Caleb Bounds when the plate umpire declared that Carratala was out because he initially had shown signs of attempting to bunt, even though he clearly made no actual attempt to do so as he tried to spin back and away from the pitch bearing in on his body.
If a batter fouls a 2-strike pitch while attempting to bunt it, it is considered a strikeout and dead ball. In this case, however, with the batter having abandoned the attempt to bunt and the ball accidentally hitting the bat as he attempted to get out of its way, it almost-certainly should have been treated the same as a normal 2-strike foul with balls-strikes count staying the same and the at-bat continuing.
With, in the aftermath of the disputed strikeout, runners still at first and second and one out, a single to left field by Dalton Robison only loaded the bases, rather than tying the game with no outs, as it would have, had a hit-by-pitch call on Carratala been made.
Still, with two of its best hitters of the season set to step up to the plate, Chillicothe remained in a great position to pull the win out of the fire, but could not get the runner at third base home. A fly ball to very shallow right field on which there was no hope of Fry tagging up and scoring from third and then a fly to medium right left the bases loaded and left the Mudcats owning an 11-20 overall record and a 9-19 league record.
Joplin led 2-0 after one inning Saturday, but Chillicothe went in front in the third on Gaven Strobel's 2-runs triple off the left field wall that scored Carratala and Robison – each of whom had singled – and Jack Cavanaugh's sacrifice fly.
After each team scored in the fourth – the Mudcats using leadoff singles by Gawelko and Fry, Cormane’s sacrifice bunt, and Carratala’s groundout to retake the lead, the visiting Outlaws scored the run that eventually forced the extra inning on the first of the Mudcats' three errors in the sixth.
It stayed 4-4 until the 10th as Chillicothe left three men in scoring position in the seventh and eighth innings and Joplin one at third in the seventh.
In the top of the 10th, Mudcats reliever Preston Ludwick (0-2) saw a 1-out hit batsman turn into the tiebreaking run when Caleb DeLaTorre ripped a double up the alley in right-center field. After DeLaTorre stayed at third as an error was made by the Mudcats on a bouncer to the left side of the infield, with two outs, a bouncer to the right side was misplayed, the error letting it squirm into short right field as DeLaTorre chugged home from second base with the run that ultimately stood as the difference.
Statistically Saturday, Chillicothe out-hit Joplin 12-8 and also received a combined seven walks/hit batters, compared to the Outlaws’ five. The Mudcats, however, also committed three errors to Joplin’s one.
The Mudcats had five men – Cole Taylor, Fry, Gawelko, Carratala, and Robison, who quietly has taken over the team lead in total hits on the season with 27, one more than Taylor – with two hits each.
DeLaTorre had two hits and two runs knocked in for the Outlaws.
Chillicothe starting pitcher Kent Frantz probably deserved a win. He limited Joplin to four runs – all earned – in his 121-pitches, 8-innings outing. He did not walk anyone, but did hit two while striking out eight.
Chillicothe, which has lost three of four meetings with Joplin thus far this summer, will host game two of a 3-games set with the Outlaws at “June” Shaffer Memorial Park stadium tonight (Sunday) at 6:05 p.m.