JOPLIN, Mo. — Having their 3-games winning streak ended and surrendering 20 runs in an 8-innings loss to the host Joplin Outlaws Tuesday apparently didn’t sit well with the 2019 Chillicothe (Mo.) Mudcats college-level summer baseball team.
After waiting out a 68-minutes rain delay at Joe Becker Stadium near downtown Joplin, the Mudcats’ first four batters of Wednesday’s (June 12) middle game of their 3-games series there hit safely, leading to a 5-runs opening frame and, after a momentary fourth-inning fright, eventually a 13-8 MINK League triumph.
The win advanced the Mudcats’ early-season record to an impressive 6-3, both overall and in the league. Joplin, which had notched its first ’19 league win at Chillicothe’s expense the night before, dipped to 5-7 overall and 1-6 in the loop.
After the series finale at Joplin Thursday night, the Mudcats will shift an hour east up Interstate 44 today to Springfield to play a 5 p.m. doubleheader of 7-innings games with the Ozark Generals, the defending champions of the league’s South Division and, as of the start of play yesterday, tied for that division’s lead with Jefferson City in 2019.
While the Mudcats won by their original 5-runs lead, that quick strike didn’t settle the game. It did, however, give fill-in starting pitcher Anthony Rogers a most-welcomed margin with which to work the first time he went to the hill.
Chillicothe leadoff batter Tate Wargo stroked a game-starting single and stole second base – one of six steals the Fish had on the night (Joplin also swiped six). He moved to third base on Dom Trevino’s hit and jogged home on the first of four Logan Eickhoff hits. Three batters into the contest, the Fish had a lead they would not surrender.
Cleanup man Nolan Metcalf continued to wield a heavy stick, following Eickhoff’s hit with a run-scoring double. After Outlaws starting and losing pitcher Tyler Gum finally retired a batter, Jack Grace delivered Eickhoff from third with a single and, on the play, Metcalf also dented the dish on an error by the Joplin first baseman.
Grace then helped generate a fifth run of the inning with his legs, swiping second and influencing Gum into a balk that put him at third with one out. Two pitches later, catcher Brady Welch lifted a sacrifice fly to left to cap the inning.
Called on to make the start which head coach Caleb Bounds had planned for recently-arrived righthander Alex Crinigan to make, lefty Rogers didn’t squander the momentum the Fish sticks had generated.
Although he did yield a leadoff single and then not prevent that man from stealing both second and third bases, he worked in a strikeout before getting a 1-out fly ball to center field. After making the catch for out No. 2, center fielder Trevino gunned an on-target throw home to Welch in time to cut down speedy Zack Ehlen trying to score after the catch.
Rogers then worked a 1-2-3 second to send the game to the third still 5-0, Chillicothe.
The guests’ lead increased by a run in the top of third when Metcalf, the Mudcats’ leader in extra-base hits, banged his second double in as many at-bats and scored on Grace’s 2-outs hit.
Down 6-0, Joplin began to make some inroads against Rogers, generally expected to serve in a relief role this summer, as he worked deeper into the contest as the starter.
After a couple of singles, two wild pitches allowed Joplin to get on the scoreboard with two outs, but the Illinoisan limited the damage to that single run. He was not as fortunate in the fourth.
A leadoff walk in the home fourth seemed not too problematic when Rogers got the next two men on a fly ball and his sixth strikeout of the game. However, that whiff turned out to be the last out he got.
A double made it 6-2 and, after another free pass, a 2-runs double by Joplin catcher Ryan Lorber pulled the Outlaws within 6-4. When No. 9 batter Alec Capshaw singled Lorber home, Bounds went to the bullpen for righthander Chandler Griggs.
The smallish (5’11”, 160 pounds) hurler from Columbus, Ga., had struggled in his debut with the team June 3, allowing four hits, three walks, and five runs while getting only two outs. He’d bounced back his next time out, though, with a scoreless inning in last Sunday’s win at Nevada.
He answered the bell even stronger this time.
Griggs (1-0) stranded his inherited runner at second by getting a groundout to third baseman Kole Ficken (Boonville, Mo.) and went on to pitch into the eighth inning without surrendering a run.
As with Rogers at game’s start, it helped his mindset when the Chillicothe went back on the offensive right after the Outlaws closed in.
Up by only a run as they came to bat in the top of the fifth, the Mudcats this time put their first five batters of the inning aboard and ultimately matched Joplin’s 4-runs fourth to retake a 5-runs advantage.
The Fish’s second crooked number of runs of the night began with singles by Eickhoff, Metcalf, and Blaine Ray, who knocked in Eickhoff. Following a walk to Grace that filled the bases against Outlaws reliever Quest Mock, who had entered at the start of the fourth, Welch produced the game’s key blow – a 3-runs double that made it 10-5.
With Griggs working effectively, Grace’s 2-outs double in the sixth that let Metcalf score for a fourth time on the night bumped the lead back to its original six runs. Wargo’s second hit, a run-producing 2-base error on a drive hit by Trevino,  and the last of the Outlaws’ six errors in the game after Eickhoff singled tacked on two more for a 13-5 Chillicothe spread after seven.
Griggs finally wore down in the bottom of the eighth, departing after a leadoff single and walk. Both of those turned into runs before his replacement, Brock Pettit, got out of the inning, but Pettit did retire three of the four men he faced. Eventually, he also balked in Joplin’s eighth run, but sent the game to the ninth as a 5-runs contest.
Another righty, Jack McNellis closed it out in the ninth and Chillicothe had a chance to win the series on Thursday.
Statistically, Chillicothe out-hit Joplin 17-12, paced by Eickhoff’s four hits, Welch’s four RBI, Metcalf’s three hits and four runs scored, and three Grace hits. Joplin had three hits and two RBI by Capshaw.
Eickhoff’s batting average climbed to a team-best .425, Metcalf’s to .381, and Grace’s to .367. All told, the Mudcats’ early-season potency has them with a whopping six players who see regular action with batting averages above .350.
Earning the win, Griggs worked 3-1/3 innings of 3-hits, 1-run ball with two walks, a hit batsman, and four strikeouts.
Both teams were relatively efficient, each leaving seven runners aboard.
Chillicothe’s fielders supported their hurlers much better than Joplin’s did. The Mudcats committed only one error, compared to the home team’s half-dozen.