Ahead 4-0 after seven innings behind Ray 2-runs homer and outstanding pitching by William Cain, Fish relievers give up four runs in eighth, walk-off hit in ninth at Joplin

JOPLIN, Mo. — Receiving their best starting pitching performance of the season from William Cain Saturday night, the Chillicothe Mudcats seemed to have a strong grip on their duel with their MINK League last-place counterpart, possessing a 4-0 lead after seven innings.
Once Cain departed the proceedings, though, the Joplin Outlaws exploited a generous Mudcats bullpen to gain their first league victory of 2018, 5-4.
Having scored four runs in the bottom of the eighth even though only on batter hit the ball out of the infield, the Outlaws – fourth among four teams in the league’s South Division – posted a walk-off triumph over Chillicothe, fourth in the North, when No. 9 batter Kyle Clark – unable to put the ball in play in three prior plate appearances on the night – stroked a 1-out single in the bottom of the ninth. It scored Andruw McKenzie, who had been hitless in three  at-bats in the game before leading off the inning with a basehit. A sacrifice bunt positioned him to race home on Clark’s hit off losing pitcher Ricky Espinoza (0-2).
The defeat gave the Mudcats (2-7, 2-6 MINK) their second 3-games losing streak of the still-young season. Joplin (2-6, 1-6 MINK) won for a second-straight night in the opener of a 3-games home series which will continue at 6 p.m. Sunday and conclude Monday at 7 p.m.
Saturday’s contest at Joe Becker Stadium, site of this year’s MINK League All-Star Game later this month, saw Chillicothe produce one of its best overall performances until the late collapse.
With righthander Cain (Oak Grove, Mo./Dodge City (Kan.) CC) blanking the Outlaws on two hits – a second-inning single immediately erased by a double play and a 1-out double in the fifth – through seven frames, the modest production his team’s offense managed looked to be enough for the Fish’ third win.
In the top of the second inning, outfielder Nick Ray (Jefferson, La./Southeastern Louisiana U.) powered a Zach Parish pitch over the Meador Park stadium fence after Connor Quick had been given an inning-opening base on balls. It was the Fish’s second home run of the year. The other was by Nico Burgarello.
The 2-0 margin held until the Chillicothe sixth when a 2-outs uprising added a run.
Luke Schwartz coaxed a walk, advanced 90 feet on the second of three hits by catcher Gavin Strobel, and darted home when Dalton Robison also singled.
Pinch-hitting to begin the visitors’ seventh, Chillicothe resident Derek Hussey also lit the fuse on a run with a walk. He advanced on an infield out, moved to third on a wild pitch, and, after another walk, scored the Mudcats’ fourth run of the game when Quick hit into a forceout at second base.
Lifting Cain, so as to not overtax him, Chillicothe head/pitch-ing coach Caleb Bounds turned to lefthander Mitch Hagan to begin the home half of the eighth.
Much as in his previous outing, when – entering a game Chillicothe trailed only 1-0, he allowed a hit and three consecutive walks after retiring the first batter he faced before being lifted – the lefthander was not up to the task.
This time out, with a 4-0 lead to try to shield, he did not get an out, walking the first two men he faced on five pitches each before a single loaded the bases and put the potential tying run in the batter’s box.
Espinoza, a righty, was quickly summoned to try to extinguish the fire, but he hit his first foe with a 1-2 delivery.
The Chillicothe hurler then fielded a bases-full tap by the next batter, but, rushing to make a throw to try for an out, threw the ball away. Two runs scored on the hit-and-error and runners were left at second and third bases, still with no outs.
Espinoza calmed things after that, retiring the next three men on a popup, groundout, and strikeout, but also wild-pitched home the tying run in doing so.
Statistically, No. 8 hitter Strobel provided half of the Mudcats’ six hits and Robison, right behind him, had two.