MINK League North Division regular-season champion Sedalia shredded Chillicothe (Mo.) team's pitching for five extra-base hits and 10 runs in fifth inning to snap 2-2 tie, win 13-2 in seven
SEDALIA, Mo. — After gamely battling most of last week to fight off near-certain elimination from the MINK League playoffs race – a fight which ended while they were idle Sunday when St. Joseph won to officially clinch the last of the three North Division playoffs berth available, the Chillicothe Mudcats college-level baseball team surrendered meekly to the North Division regular-season champion Monday.
After scoring a run on three hits in the first half-inning of an inconsequential – for Chillicothe – game at Sedalia, the Fish managed only one hit after that and lost on the 10-runs-lead rule, 13-2 in seven innings.
Chillicothe actually was tied 2-2 after scoring a run in the top of the fifth inning, only to have starting pitcher Trae Brownell falter badly and then a position player take the hill and get pummelled during what became a 10-runs Sedalia fifth.
The defeat dropped the Mudcats’ record in league games to 15-25 and its overall mark to 17-26 entering their final action of 2018 last evening at Clarinda, Iowa. Prior to this season, no Mudcats team had ever posted a losing overall record since the team began competition in 2002.
With Monday’s defeat making certain this year’s Fish would win no more than 19 games, it added another low-water mark to the 2018 ledger.
They already had cemented, when they lost their home finale to Sedalia last week, the dual distinction of producing the fewest Mudcats wins and most losses ever in their 17 seasons of play. The previous low in victories was 21 in their very first year, when then played only 41 games; the most losses any of their predecessors had sustained was 24 in 2011, when they played 51 times.
The latest loss to the Bombers Monday made it impossible for the 2018 Chillicothe club to reach 20 victories, adding that to the list of dubious 2018 “firsts.”
Although it will have nothing on the line, Chillicothe will play at least one game and possibly two at Clarinda, Iowa, Tuesday night (July 24) to conclude the Mudcats’ season.
Because St. Joseph defeated Clarinda’s A’s Monday night to pull within one game of the Iowa team for second place in the MINK North Division standings, it had a chance to catch the Iowans, if the Fish can top the A’s twice Tuesday.
If that happens, Clarinda and St. Joseph will finish with identical records in league play, forcing a tiebreaker to be used to determine the second-place finisher and host for tonight’s playoffs opener. St. Joseph has the tiebreaker advantage.
According to Mudcats general manager Doug Doughty Monday, if Clarinda wins the first game over the Mudcats Tuesday and thus clinches second place, the second game will be cancelled and the A's will prepare to welcome St. Joseph Wednesday night.
If Chillicothe wins Tuesday's 7-innings first game, a second, 9-innings second game will be played, again offering the host A's a chance to sew up second spot with a win.
Wednesday’s Clarinda-St. Joseph winner will visit Sedalia Thursday for a 1-game showdown to determine the North Division representative in the weekend’s league championship series.
Monday night at Sedalia, Chillicothe designated hitter Gaven Strobel followed Nico Burgarello’s 1-out, first-inning hit and Connor Quick’s 2-outs single with a run-scoring hit.
The trio of safeties gave starting pitcher Brownell (2-4) a quick 1-0 lead, but he could not protect it long. With a leadoff single, a sacrifice bunt, and another hit, the host Bombers had tied it in their half of the first.
The home team moved ahead for a while in the third on a leadoff walk and RBI double by Dillon Belle.
Trailing 2-1 after four, the Mudcats – with nothing to gain or lose in the contest, while Sedalia sought to win to try to clinch the home-field advantage for the league championship series, should it reach it – threatened to spoil things for the hosts.
With a Bombers position player, Ryan Flores, was inserted to make only his second pitching appearance of the season in the fifth inning, he walked the first three batters he faced – Dalton Robison, Peyton Cormane, and Burgarello, each on a 3-2 delivery.
Jack Cavanaugh, one of Chillicothe’s better hitters late in the season, then reached a 3-0 count, raising the real possibility the Fish would tie the game without putting the ball in play and perhaps be on their way to a big inning that could lead to a season-best fifth victory in six games.
However, on a 3-1 offering, Cavanaugh grounded the ball to the second baseman, who started a double play that, while it scored the tying run from third, ruined the potential big inning. When Flores retired Quick on a called third strike to leave Cormane perched at third base, the game’s momentum had suddenly swung to the Bombers.
They knew what to do with it – with help from Chillicothe pitching.
Escaping the top of the fifth with a 2-2 tie, Sedalia had 10 consecutive men reach base safely with one out in the bottom half and put the game rapidly out of reach.
Brownell, who already had walked five and hit one through four shaky innings, fully broke down after getting the first Sedalia batter of the fifth.
He followed a hit with his sixth and seventh bases on balls to load the bases. The bottom two batters in the Bombers’ lineup then bashed back-to-back 2-runs 2-baggers that broke the deadlock and put Chillicothe down 6-2.
Perhaps seeking to save what “normal” pitchers he has remaining at his disposal to give Clarinda the most “honest” test his team could the next night, Mudcats head coach Caleb Bounds replaced Brownell with Cole Taylor, who had not been used as a hurler previously and was not listed on team preseason lists as having a pitching background.
The experiment did not go well, although it probably did not impact the game’s eventual outcome, other that giving the Bombers a chance to win early.
The first batter Taylor worked to smacked Sedalia’s third-straight double and Ashanti Wheatley followed with a 2-runs home run over the fence in left field, making it 9-2.
The next three batters also got on base before Taylor recorded his only out on a grounder to shortstop. When the man after that doubled to give Sedalia a double-digits lead, Bounds mercifully lifted Taylor, calling on normal reliever Hayden House, who ended the inning by getting the only batter he faced.
When Chillicothe failed to cut into the lead in the sixth, another position player was sent to the bump to face the Bombers in the bottom half. Dalton Robison took the ball and fashioned a hitless frame. However, he also walked four batters, including two with two outs, to force home a run that meant the Mudcats would need two runs in their seventh to prevent the quickest-possible end to the contest.
Facing a little-used Bombers reliever with a high earned-run average, Chillicothe appeared on its way to doing just that when Robison walked and Cormane was hit by a 3-2 pitch. A wild pitch sent them to second and third with no outs, Cormane carrying the game-extending run.
They died where they were, however, as a strikeout, popup, and game-ending whiff followed.
Statistically Monday, Sedalia out-hit the Mudcats 9-4, but that margin was 8-1 over the last six innings and six of the nine Bombers hits went for extra bases, compared to one for the Fish.
No Mudcat had multiple hits. A handful of Bombers drove in two runs apiece.
On top of the hits total, Chillicothe’s trio of hurlers other than House handed out a season-high 14 bases on balls.