Host's Tanner Marshall throws complete game in 6-2 Chillicothe win in opener of doubleheader, but Mustangs' Heitpas goes route, too, fans 14 in 2-1 nightcap victory for guests
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Three masterful starting pitching performances – two by the hosts – were delivered during Tuesday night’s MINK League doubleheader between the Chillicothe Mudcats and visiting St. Joseph Mustangs. Unfortunately for the home club, all it got from its hurlers’ efforts was a split of the twinbill, missing out on a possible sweep with a 2-1 loss in the nightcap after taking the opener 6-2.
Following Tanner Marshall’s route-going effort in game one – a 7-innings outing which, the C-T learned after the game, was Marshall’s swan song with the squad, Joseph Heitpas was even better for St. Joseph in the second game, checking Chillicothe on one run and six hits while striking out 14 in going wire to wire.
Heitpas’ shiny showing thwarted the strong start of the Mudcats’ William Cain, who allowed only two runs – one earned – on four hits with 10 strikeouts across six innings.
Unfortunately, league All-Star Cain (0-1) had only himself to blame for getting the loss, issuing a bases-empty, 2-outs walk in the fifth inning of a 1-1 game and eventually balking that Mustang in with the bases loaded and two outs.
Marshall (2-1) – who received consideration for, but not selection to, the league’s North Division All-Star hill staff – demonstrated why in pitching Chillicothe to its season-best third-straight victory in Tuesday’s first game. The Canton, Mo., righthander who pitches collegiately at St. Louis’ Maryville University, handcuffed St. Joseph on four hits and two runs, while fanning 10. After some shaky moments early, he held the Mustangs to two hits the last six innings.
The Mudcats (10-13, 9-12 league) got a solid leg up on their win in the opener with a 3-runs third inning that expanded a 2-1 lead to 5-1 with consecutive run-scoring singles by Nate Gawelko, Jack Cavanaugh, and Nick Ray.
Chillicothe took the opener despite having nothing but singles, while St. Joseph (15-11, 13-10 league) swatted four extra-base hits, including a double and triple by Mason Janvrin. The Mudcats were led to their win by two hits and two runs batted in by Gawelko.
Half of the six Chillicothe hits and its lone RBI of the game two loss came off the bat of All-Star Gaven Strobel.
Besides Strobel and Cain, also involved in Wednesday’s MINK League All-Star game activities from the Fishwere outfielder and Chillicothe resident Derek Hussey, first baseman Andrew Williams, middle infielder and league stolen bases leader Peyton Cormane, and pitcher Trae Brownell.
The Mudcats’ next regular-season action will come at Nevada, Mo., this Friday through Sunday as they visit the Griffons for a 3-games series. Chillicothe’s next home game is set for next Monday night when it will host another 6:05 p.m. doubleheader against the Ozark Generals.
Game 1 was turned the Mudcats’ way early by Marshall’s gritty pitching – aided by a St. Joseph baserunning mistake – in two early jams and offensive contributions up and down the lineup.
The first two Mustangs batters ripped a triple and double, immediately putting the home team behind. However, after the next man walked, a fly ball to right-center field turned into a game-turning double play when the runner at first base tried to advance after the catch and was thrown out easily. Marshall then induced a fly out to center to strand a man at second.
Chillicothe immediately seized on that favorable turn of events and took the lead for good in its half of the first inning.
Walks to the first two Mudcats were followed by a hit-and-run single by Andrew Williams that tied it and left runners at second and third bases with none out. A bases-full, 1-out roller to the second baseman by Nate Gawelko was handled as Nico Burgarello crossed the plate with the go-ahead run.
St. Joseph threatened to tie the game or regain the lead when Mason Janvrin, who had slashed the game-starting triple, boomed a double off the wall in left following a leadoff walk in the third.
However, Marshall again bowed his neck under pressure. He got a key strikeout on a high breaking ball, then a weak line drive to second, and finally a groundout to second to freeze both runners at second and third and keep Chillicothe ahead, 2-1.
His teammates rewarded him by quadrupling his lead before he again toed the rubber.
Fouling off four 2-2 pitches in a row, Cole Taylor finally drew a leadoff walk in the Mudcats’ third, leading to a 3-runs frame.
Losing the 10-pitch battle might have worn Mustangs starting pitcher Adam Thies down some as, with one out, Derek Hussey also walked – he walked his first three plate appearances on 13 total pitches before being hit by the first pitch he saw his fourth time up.
Gawelko, Jack Cavanaugh, and Nick Ray made Thies pay, each stroking a RBI single that made it 5-1, Chillicothe, after three.
St. Joseph got a leadoff double in the fifth and ultimately scored him, but that was its last batter to reach base as Marshall closed with a flourish. He retired the last nine Mustangs to step in against him, five on strikes, including four of the last five.
Chillicothe tacked on another insurance run in its sixth when Gawelko’s line drive single to left scored Taylor.
With a chance to dramatically close ground on the teams closest ahead of them in the league’s North Division by completing a sweep, the Fish could not close the deal in the finale, mostly due to righthander Heitpas’ stellar pitching.
After Cain was nicked for a run in the top of the first inning, just as Marshall was in game one, Chillicothe replied via Hussey’s 1-out infield single, stolen base and Mustangs throwing error, and Strobel’s clean single through the hole on the left side.
The 1-1 tie held until the fifth and should have lasted longer.
After retiring the first two St. Joseph batters in the top of the fifth, Cain issued a base on balls, a gift compounded by a throwing error on what should have been the last out of the inning on an infield grounder.
A double-steal put the lead run 90 feet from home plate before, with the man a third bluffing a break down the line, Cain started his windup, then stopped, committing a balk which scored what turned out to be the decisive run.
Even as relievers James “River” Wright of Bucklin and Tristen Sewell, another homegrown Fish like Hussey, kept it a 1-run game with three shutout innings behind Cain, the offense could never fully decipher Heitpas.
The St. Joseph hurler stranded the possible tying run at third in the fifth and pitched around consecutive 1-out hits in the sixth before setting down the last 11 Mudcats batters in a row – eight of the 11 on strikeouts.
With no other MINK League action taking place Tuesday, due to a pair of rainouts in southwest Missouri, the split in Chillicothe leaves the last-place Mudcats still 2-1/2 games behind third-place Clarinda, Iowa, and three back of second-place St. Joseph at the All-Star Game break. Had the Fish managed to get the sweep, they'd have climbed with a game of the Mustangs and 1-1/2 of Clarinda's A's.
Following Tuesday's twinbill, Mudcats head coach Caleb Bounds disclosed that Marshall had informed him that, for personal reasons, he had opted to conclude his time with the Mudcats this summer in order to spend more time at his home north of Hannibal.
With his and Jayden Grover’s recent arm-health-related departure and formal confirmation that projected team ace Parker Kirkpatrick – who made only one early appearance this summer – will not be rejoining the club, as hoped, the head coach has arranged to bring in two new, angular, righthanded hurlers in time for this weekend’s resumption of regular-schedule play.
Preston Ludwick, a 6’3”, 185-pounds freshman teammate of Cormane’s at Louisiana’s Centenary College, and Ryann Gray, a 6’, 165-pounds, 22-year-old from Brewton, Ala., who has bounced around several colleges and junior colleges and who threw a handful of games with a Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, team in western Canada earlier this month before being cut loose, due to inefffectiveness (eight hits, 12 walks), are due to report in time for the trip to Nevada.
Pitching in only five games at Centenary, Ludwick, from Pflugerville, Texas, also DHed and played some first base, batting in 29 games, 14 as a starter. While batting only .231, he did show some pop with 12 extra-base hits among his 18 total hits, according to stats on the Centenary Gents website.