The Chillicothe (Mo.) Mudcats won 5-2 and 15-7 at Clarinda, Iowa, Tuesday (July 24) to knock the A's from second place to third behind St. Joseph in the final 2018 MINK League baseball North Division standings. Chillicothe ended its season 19-26, its poorest record ever
CLARINDA, Iowa — Despite a patchwork lineup that included pitchers as position players, following the departure for home after Monday’s loss at Sedalia of all but 11 team members, the Chillicothe Mudcats closed their 2018 season Tuesday (July 24) with a MINK League baseball doubleheader sweep at Clarinda, Iowa.
The Mudcats earned the gratitude of the St. Joseph Mustangs by improbably defeating Clarinda’s A’s 5-2 in the 7-innings first game and 15-7 in the 9-innings nightcap.
With a fast finish that saw it claim six of its last eight contests – its best stretch of the summer, the Mudcats ended up 19-26 overall and 17-25 in the league. It was the first time in their 17-seasons history a Mudcats team had a losing record overall.
By losing both games to the last-place Mudcats, Clarinda slipped to a final league ledger of 20-22, the same mark with which St. Joseph finished the night before when it too won at Clarinda.
Because those two clubs finished tied for second and third in the loop’s North Division, the second seeding for the league playoffs that start Wednesday night had to be settled by a tiebreaker. The league’s first tiebreaker is head-to-head results between the tied squads and that favored the defending league champion Mustangs, 4-2.
For that reason, St. Joseph will host Clarinda in the do-or-die first-round playoffs game tonight. The survivor of their contest at Phil Welch Stadium will go to Sedalia Thursday night for another win-or-go-home game, the winner of which qualifies for the best-of-3 league championship series this weekend against the South Division representative.
The Mudcats used a fast start in last night’s first game to force a second to be played, then set an even-more-torrid pace to begin the finale.
One night after managing only one hit in the last six innings of a 13-2, 7-innings loss at Sedalia, Chillicothe had only two hits in the final six innings of Tuesday’s opener at Clarinda.
The difference was what damage the Fish had inflicted in the contest’s first frame and how their pitchers fared.
After getting only one run from three hits to start the game before going dry at Sedalia, Chillicothe stroked six singles off 2017 Mudcat Blake Collister, producing four runs that proved to be more than enough for the win which necessitated the second game.
The first three Fish – Luke Schwartz, Jared Fry, and Jack Cavanaugh – swatted singles, Cavanaugh’s driving in Schwartz from second base to begin, but not end, the scoring.
With one out, a wild pitch let Fry dart home before back-to-back hits by Preston Ludwick and Connor Quick made it 3-zip. Finally, with two outs, pitcher Trae Brownell – serving as the starting third baseman – delivered a run-scoring single in his first plate appearance as a Mudcat.
Making the early offensive barrage pay off were lefthanded starter Noah McClanahan, who had earned two wins in the previous six nights – once as a starter and once in relief, and rubber-armed Hayden House.
McClanahan allowed three hits in 3-plus innings before House rescued him from a 2-on, none-out jam in the fourth. House (2-1) walked the first batter he faced to load the bases, then stranded all three runners and went on to blank the Iowans on one hit for the last four innings to pick up the win in his team-high 18th appearance.
Before Clarinda got to McClanahan for its two runs in the third inning, Chillicothe had bumped its lead up to five in the top half of that frame.
Nick Ray drew a leadoff walk, went to second on another wild pitch, and dashed home on Ludwick’s second single, making it 5-0, Fish.
Chillicothe doubled Clarinda’s hits output in the opener 8-4 and won despite having the game’s only two errors, both by fill-in third sacker Brownell before Mudcats head coach Caleb Bounds swapped Brownell’s and Ludwick’s defensive posts. Ludwick moved from second to third at the start of the fourth inning.
The second game – which Chillicothe played as the home team, due to it being a make-up of a postponed game in Chillicothe – saw Clarinda start a pitcher it had not used often and who had a season earned run average in double figures. He did not fare well.
As they did in game one, the Mudcats put four runs on the scoreboard in the first inning, although getting only two hits this time around. After Cavanaugh doubled Fry home from first base with one out, the last three runs of the inning crossed the plate on 2-outs wild pitches.
The wrinkle Chillicothe threw in for the second game was duplicating that opening-inning output in the second with three more hits, putting the Iowa team in an 8-0 hole.
A bases-full walk to Ray made it 5-0, after which Ludwick and Quick singled in a run each.
The margin became 10-0 after four as the Mudcats tacked on single runs in the third on Fry’s hit to left and fourth on a sacrifice fly by eventual winning pitcher Tristen Sewell (1-3), who started in left field.
The nearest the Iowa team got after that was six runs in the sixth, when they scored five times to cut the Chillicothe lead to 13-7. By then, Ray had doubled home two runs and Sewell waited out a bases-full free pass in the fifth.
Immediately after the A’s’ big sixth inning, the Mudcats offset some of that damage with hits by Schwartz and Ray setting up a bases-loaded walk to Ludwick and a scoring fly ball from Quick.
With those two runs re-inflating the cushion to eight runs, Bounds – with no other healthy or fresh arms to turn to among his playing roster – took the mound for a second time this summer. Again, he was impregnable.
The Mudcats’ first-year head coach walked a man in the seventh and an error in the eighth let a man reach, but the A’s did not get a hit or run off Bounds. Having earlier this season posted his team-record 13th winning decision with seven innings of scoreless ball against a non-league foe, the coach tacked on three more goose eggs as a reliever Tuesday to gain his first-ever Mudcats save.
Chillicothe again out-hit the host, 13-9, with eight of the nine A’s hits grouped into the fifth and sixth innings Sewell, who had thrown six innings of relief last Friday and Saturday, worked behind starter Cavanaugh.
Statistically in the season-ending twinbill, Schwartz, who acquitted himself nicely in handling shortstop all evening, led Chillicothe with five hits. Fry and Ludwick rapped four each.
Ray, Quick, and Ludwick each drove in three runs. Quick finished the year with 22 RBI, only one less than team co-leaders Peyton Cormane and Cole Taylor, each of whom had at least 25 more at-bats than Quick.
With a 3-for-5 finale, Lawrence, Kan., product Fry completed July play 19 for 40, a sizzling .475 clip that led to him finishing with a team-best .347 batting average.
Dalton Robison, who finished the season sharing the team lead in hits with Taylor (33 each) ironically had none of the 23 the Fish had Tuesday. He went zero for four with four bases on balls.
For the first time in team history, the Mudcats did not have any pitcher with more than two wins. Five guys had two in 2018, House joining that group on the final day.