Lefthander held Mudcats scoreless on four hits through 6-2/3 innings Tuesday (June 18, 2019) after seeing 7-2/3 innings of 1-hit ball go for nought in June 8 game. Chillicothe sustains consecutive losses for first time this season
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Perhaps the signature win of the 2019 Chillicothe (Mo.) Mudcats season thus far came at home on June 8.
Trailing the Jefferson City Renegades 4-0 in the bottom of the eighth inning and held to one hit by Renegades lefthander Dylan Dunbar through 7-2/3 innings, the Mudcats managed to scramble back and force the game to extra innings and, in the 13th, trump three more Renegades runs with four of their own in the bottom of the inning to win 9-8.
While Chillicothe beat the odds that night, “the house” – and Dunbar – in a very similar situation quickly evened the score Tuesday evening (June 18) in a 5-0 Jeff City victory.
Dunbar had thrown only 77 pitches when he was removed from the June 8 game in the eighth innings with the bases full, two outs, and no Chillicothe runs yet on the “Chuck” Haney Field scoreboard at “June” Shaffer Memorial Park.
That time, all three Mudcats on base scored to tighten the game and the hosts used that momentum and Dunbar’s departure to pull out the victory.
Tuesday, although marginally less effective and less efficient, the Jefferson City hurler again hung nothing but goose eggs on the scoreboard while he was in the game. When, despite a score, his replacement provided better relief after he departed after almost 100 pitches thrown with two outs in the seventh inning, Dunbar’s bat-chilling performance gave him and his team a MINK League win.
Having sustained consecutive defeats for the first time this season, Chillicothe will be back on the home diamond Wednesday night, welcoming the Joplin Outlaws for a 7:05 p.m. league game. Righthander Tyler Venditti (1-1) is slated to toe the rubber as the Mudcats’ starting pitcher.
With a forecast of a good chance of rain, Mudcats general manager Doug Doughty disclosed that, if Wednesday’s game can’t be played, the Fish and Joplin will try to make it up as part of a doubleheader Thursday at 6:05. Thursday’s action is slated to be a single, 7:05 p.m. contest.
Having held Chillicothe (9-6, 9-6 MINK) to four hits and four baserunners through 6-2/3 innings, Dunbar was pulled after a single to left field by Chet Merritt on his 98th pitch, lifted in favor of big righthander Shane Fontenot.
When Hunter Johnson’s soft roller up the third-base line resulted in an infield hit and Fontenot then fumbled away Brandan Settles’ tap between the mound and home plate, the Mudcats were in a virtually-identical position to the June 8 game they won – Dunbar departed, bases loaded, two outs, still scoreless – although this time trailing 5-0, instead of 4-0, and potentially one good swing of the bat away from being right back in the thick of things.
This time, though, the odds against them won out. Fontenot induced an inning-ending groundout to strand the three runners and then mowed the Mudcats down, allowing only one baserunner on a 2-out hit batsman in the eighth, the last two innings.
That allowed Jefferson City 9-7, 7-7 MINK) to salvage one of its three games in Chillicothe this season and stay in a first-place tie with Ozark in the league’s South Division.
While the Mudcats managed four hita off Dunbar the second go-around after having on two in his prior start against them, they couldn’t dent him for any runs. Never did they have more than one runner on base while the southpaw was in the game.
The nearest they came to breaking through even a little came with two outs in the sixth.
Down 5-0 after three Renegades runs off starting/losing pitcher Tyler Ingram (0-3) in the fourth and single runs off Ingram and then reliever Garrett West in the fifth and sixth, Chillicothe got a 2-outs triple up the alley in left-center field from Logan Eickhoff as their fourth hit.
That put the home team’s leading run producer on the season, designated hitter Nolan Metcalf in the batter’s box with a chance to break the scoreless spell Dunbar again had cast.
The two had battled to a full count when the righthanded-swinging Metcalf went with a high, away pitch and lashed a high line drive deep down the right field line. The ball clearly was not going to be caught by the right fielder, so the question quickly became would it land fair or foul. Because the ball had just a shade too much elevation, it stayed airborne just long enough for the natural tailing action of the opposite-field blow to have it come to earth perhaps a foot or less foul about 290 feet from the plate. Rather than a run-scoring double or triple, it was simply a foul ball that kept the count at 3-2. After another foul, Metcalf bounced out to the shortstop, the inning was over, and the score still was 5-0, Renegades, as it would stay.
Statistically, while absorbing his third loss in not only his first start of this season, but reportedly his first start as a college-level hurler, Ingram actually had his best outing to date, despite his final numbers.
Through three innings, he held Jeff City off the scoreboard, surrendering only two hits and not walking anyone (he hit the first batter of the game). He then had two outs in the fourth with the game still 0-0 when growing fatigue began leaving more of his pitches elevated in the strike zone.
The Renegades reached him for the three runs in the fourth when lefty-swinging Ryan Missal found the gap in left-center with a drive that drove home all three baserunners. A fourth run was charged to Ingram in the fifth when a single, a steal, another single, and a wild pitch on the final pitch of a walk brought his stint to an end.
Reliever West stranded the two baserunners he inherited in the fifth, but gave up the last Jefferson City run on a leadoff double and 1-out single by Peyton Leeper in the sixth.
Had lefty West (Atlanta, Mo.) not made some clutch pitches in tough spots, the game could have been put far out of the Mudcats’ reach in any of the three innings he worked. In a rare statistical instance, he forced the Renegades to leave the bases loaded in all three instances. However, that became a moot point when the Chillicothe offense never broke through against Dunbar or Fontenot.
Jefferson City out-hit the Fish 11-6 and neither of its pitchers handed out a walk. Eickhoff, who entered the action with an even .400 batting average, managed to improve it with a 2-for-4 night. Joining him in having a 2-hits night was Chet Merritt.
All told, the Chillicothe bullpen trio of West, Collin Chalmbers, and Jack McNellis fired 4-2/3 innings of 4-hits, 1-run ball, one of the team’s best collective relief efforts to date.