Fish temporarily overcame Iowa team's first-inning grand slam, but eventually succumbed 9-7 Sunday night (July 15, 2018) for 12th loss in past 15 games
CLARINDA, Iowa — Considering the dire straits it is in, relative to its speedily-shrinking hopes of qualifying for MINK League postseason action for the first time in seven years, the Chillicothe Mudcats college-level, wood-bat baseball team deserves credit for not meekly surrendering Sunday evening when the Clarinda (Iowa) A’s seized a 4-0 lead on top slugger Sean Bergeron’s grand-slam home run before the Mudcats had recorded an out.
The Mudcats withstood that quick, 4-runs shock and, with help from slipshod A’s defense, held a 6-4 lead midway through the MINK League game. However, a second 4-runs outburst by the hosts proved more than the Fish could overcome, despite a game effort.
The Iowa team retook the upper hand with a tying 2-runs home run from Cole Frederick and a 2-outs, 2-runs single from Waylon LeBlanc in the bottom of the fifth and kept it.
After Chillicothe crept within 8-7 in the sixth, the A’s bullpen blanked the Mudcats over the last three innings to post a 9-7 MINK League victory.
Strengthening their grip on second place in the league’s North Division, the A’s advanced to 18-16 in league play and evened their overall mark at 19-19. Chillicothe dipped to 13-24 overall and 11-23 in the league, further damaging their faint hopes of catching either Clarinda or third-place St. Joseph and qualifying for the league playoffs.
The teams had been due to play in Chillicothe Saturday night, but that game had to be postponed after a water main break flooded much of “June” Shaffer Memorial Park stadium, the Mudcats’ home field, and left the field temporarily unplayable. It currently is rescheduled for being included in a make-up doubleheader at Clarinda July 24.
Chillicothe will play the first of three-straight home games that conclude its home schedule for this season Monday night at 7:05 against St. Joseph’s Mustangs. The Mudcats’ “magic number” for elimination from the playoffs race is three entering Monday’s game.
Sunday’s contest at Clarinda was a chance for Chillicothe, in desperation mode, to turn up the heat just a tad more on the A’s, who the Mudcats had defeated last Tuesday at Trenton.
With still three more games remaining against the Iowans after this one, Chillicothe could close a lot of ground head-to-head, if it could win every time it played the A’s or St. Joseph.
Perhaps motivated by the faint glimmer of self-control, the Mudcats did not let the A’s fast start break their spirit.
After Chillicothe didn’t score in the top of the first inning, its starting pitcher Derrek Trickel (2-3) walked the first two Clarinda batters, then saw the next reach on an infield error.
His next pitch never reached the mitt of catcher Gaven Strobel, instead being launched high and far to left field and over the fence at Merl Eberly Field by designated hitter-pitcher Sean Bergeron for a grand slam. It was the eighth home run of the summer for Bergeron, whose 3-runs bomb in the 10th inning at St. Joseph at mid-week last week had given Clarinda a huge 5-2 win over the Mustangs.
Trickel responded very admirably to the potentially-deflating blast. He made a good defensive play to work around a triple later in the first and then posted three scoreless innings in a row to keep the A’s stuck in their tracks.
Meanwhile, Chillicothe put some pressure on Bergeron and the Clarinda defense and found both susceptible to breach.
Back-to-back singles by Nate Gawelko and Dalton Robison opened the top of the second inning. Then, with two outs and runners at the corners, shortstop Peyton Cormane sent a single through the left side of the infield, plating Gawelko with the Mudcats’ first run.
Jonathan Carratala followed suit, only sending his 2-outs hit to center field. With Connor Quick wheeling for home from second, the speedy Cormane tried going from first to third, drawing a throw from the center fielder that effectively meant Quick would score.
The smart, aggressive baserunning play did much more than that, though.
The peg to third eluded the third baseman and, with no one able to back up the play – Bergeron rightly had headed for the area behind home plate, thinking a throw might go there, the ball zipped out of play. The throwing error not only let Cormane score a third Mudcats marker of the inning, but sent Carratala all the way to third base. He scored from there on a wild pitch a delivery or two later and Chillicothe had matched – in far-different manner – Clarinda’s big first and leveled the score at 4-4.
The Mudcats gave Trickel a lead to try to protect in their fourth, once more aided by the A’s faulty fielding and throwing.
With one out, Quick doubled up the alley in right-center field. He then came around to score when the Clarinda third baseman misplayed a ball hit by Cormane, allowing the batter to reach second.
After Cormane advanced to third, Carratala bounced out to the second baseman, driving in his second run of the evening and making it 6-4, Fish.
Trickel forced Clarinda to strand two men in scoring position in the home fourth to preserve the lead, but could not navigate the fifth successfully.
Bergeron drew a 1-out walk in the Iowans’ fifth and then trotted around the bases a second time on the evening, this time on Cole Frederick’s game-tying home run – Frederick’s first.
The A’s did not stop there.
A 2-outs walk was followed by consecutive singles by Aaron Easley and LeBlanc, the latter’s hit following a costly wild pitch that left two runners in scoring position.
The Chillicothe starting pitcher managed to finish the inning without further damage, getting a strikeout to leave men at first and third, but, as it turned out, Clarinda already had enough runs to win, thanks to its bullpen.
First reliever Josh Young was tagged for a run in the Mudcats’ sixth on a leadoff walk to Nick Ray, a stolen base that elicited a wild throw which let Ray move over to third, and a run-scoring hit by Quick.
However, even with Quick being at second with no outs, courtesy of a wild pitch, Chillicothe could not move the potential tying run those last 180 feet. Young toughened, fanning the next two batters and ending the inning with a popup.
He’d go on to retire nine of the last 10 batters he faced before lefthander Nick Jones handled the ninth in 1-2-3 fashion.
The A’s restored their 2-runs margin in their half of the sixth, again striking with two outs on consecutive bases on balls by first Chillicothe reliever Hayden House and a 2-outs error – one of three the Mudcats made – by shortstop Cormane.
Statistically, for Chillicothe, in addition to Carratala’s two runs batted in, Gaven Strobel, Gawelko, and Quick had two hits apiece. Clarinda had two hits each by four players and, of course, Bergeron’s four RBI.
The Mudcats now have lost 10 of their last 13 games since nearly climbing out of an early-season hole to reach 10-12 midway through their schedule.
With one more defeat their distinction of never posting a losing final record overall through their first 16 summers of play would officially vanish.
Should they somehow miraculously win all their remaining regular-season games and qualify for the playoffs, then reach and win the league championship without a loss, they still could finish 25-24. Advancing to the league championship series (requiring winning a pair of do-or-die playoff games first) also would give them a chance to finish at 25-25, even if they lost one LCS game.