Two-runs lead over Sedalia entering ninth turns into 2-runs loss June 24, 2019, Mudcats' fourth defeat in last five games
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — For the better part of 19 days, the Sedalia Bombers held a 1-0 lead over the Chillicothe (Mo.) Mudcats in a 2019 MINK League North Division baseball game. Just when the Mudcats were on the verge of making the league’s North Division co-leaders’ long wait to try to complete a victory a futile one Monday night (June 24), the Bombers pushed the ejector seat button and got away with the “W,” after all.
In a game suspended, due to bad weather on June 5, in the top of the second inning with Sedalia having just gained a 1-0 lead, the Mudcats scored two third-inning runs and another in the sixth Monday to own a 3-1 lead going to the top of the ninth inning. However, despite Chillicothe head coach Caleb Bounds turning to the two relief pitchers who will be the Mudcats’ mound representatives in Wednesday night’s MINK League All-Star Game at St. Joseph to try to close out the beckoning triumph, Sedalia piled up two doubles, two walks (one intentional), a hit batsman, and a tiebreaking 2-runs single into a 4-runs rally and a 5-3 victory.
The Chillicothe loss – its fourth in its last five outings – dropped the Mudcats’ records to 10-8, both overall and in the league. Sedalia, the league’s defending champion and a nemesis of the Mudcats for most of its time since entering the league in 2009, improved to 10-3 in both regards.
While the Bombers, having played several fewer games, technically are a half-game behind St. Joseph in the MINK North won-lost standings, they now own a slightly-superior winning percentage than the Mustangs in league action. Still nearly two-thirds of the league season remain for most teams.
Chillicothe is scheduled to visit Clarinda, Iowa, for a 7 p.m. league contest with the North’s last-place team, the A’s, Tuesday (June 25) before having Wednesday and Thursday off (except for the eight team members participating in the All-Star Game).
As play in the previously-suspended game with Sedalia resumed Tuesday, the Mudcats had the same pitcher – lefthander Brandan Van Buren – who started the game nearly three weeks before on the hill. The Bombers, however, brought in Bryce Taylor to pitch in relief of original starter Jordan Mendenhall when the Mudcats came to bat in the bottom of the second.
Despite being in hot water several times, Van Buren again displayed the grittiness, in times of stress, that he displayed in throwing a complete-game victory in the second game of a road doubleheader at Ozark his previous time out. He forced the Bombers to leave the bases loaded in the second inning and to strand two each in the fifth and eighth innings while hanging zero after zero on the Bombers’ line on the “June” Shaffer Memorial Park Stadium scoreboard.
Thanks to his teammates’ clipping of Taylor for a couple of runs on only one hit in the third inning and a third tally on another hit in the sixth, Van Buren left the mound after the top of the eighth inning owning a 3-1 lead.
With Van Buren barely having survived a 2-outs threat in the eighth and with two righthanded relievers who had been extremely good previously this season fresh and strong, the Mudcats head coach went to the bullpen for the ninth, but his pair of Jacks wasn’t enough to win the pot.
First reliever Jack Albright immediately surrendered a leadoff double to No. 8 hitter Clayton Meyer. He then hit the No. 9 batter to bring the top of the Bombers’ order up.
Getting a potentially-huge break, Albright saw the next batter pop up an attempted sacrifice bunt, with catcher Nolan Metcalf catching it for the first out.
The reprieve was short-lived, however.
Tre Turner lined a shot down the left field line that Chillicothe flyhawk Logan Eickhoff got to with a dive, but could not hold onto for a catch. Instead, as the ball rolled away, a run scored and Turner, the potential lead run, cruised into second as the tying run stopped at third.
With Jack McNellis, owner of the Fish’s only two saves, hurriedly trying to get ready in the bullpen next to the Chillicothe dugout, Bounds ordered an intentional pass to No. 3 batter Brendan Davis, re-establishing a possible double-play grounder situation while simultaneously loading the bases.
When Albright (0-1), with nowhere to put cleanup batter Blaine Hardy, fell behind him two balls and no strikes, Bounds rolled the dice and laid his other Jack – McNellis – on the table in a tough, tough spot.
The second Mudcats reliever missed the strike zone with two of his first three deliveries, completing a game-tying base on balls and bringing up A.J. Gardner, arguably Sedalia’s best hitter, with the bases full, one away, and the game now dead even at 3-3.
Gardner, who homered twice and doubled off the Liberty Park Stadium fence a third time in last week’s Bombers’ home shellacking of Chillicothe, continued to belabor Mudcats hurlers. He ripped his third single of the game into right field, easily scoring both Turner and Davis for a 5-3 visitor’s lead.
Although McNellis managed to escape the remaining first-and-third situation without more scoring, enough damage had been done. A 2-outs single to center field by Marcus Gonzalez in the bottom of the ninth managed to put the potential tying run in the batter’s box, but a soft roller to first base ended the game as a tough-to-take Mudcats loss.
Chillicothe’s third-inning spurt which put it in front commenced with a 1-out walk to Tate Wargo. As Blaine Ray batted, the speedy Wargo swiped his 13th and 14th bases of the season. After Taylor then walked Ray and Ray stole second, Dom Trevino’s fly out to right field tied the game and sent Ray to third. Eickhoff then delivered a 2-outs single that plated the go-ahead run for the Fish.
In the sixth, Eickhoff bombed a leadoff triple off the fence in left field and strolled home on a balk to make the Chillicothe lead 3-1.
Statistically, the Mudcats were out-hit 10-6, managing only two hits and three baserunner off the last three of the four relievers Sedalia used in the last four innings. Following Eickhoff’s 3-bagger to begin the sixth, 12 of the last 14 Chillicothe batters were retired by Anthony Reina, winner Cole Young – a Chariton County (Salisbury) native, and Connor Darnell.
Van Buren’s wasted outstanding pitching saw him hold the potent Bombers attack to one run on seven hits in eight innings. He struck out five, walked only two, and hit one.
Offensively, for the hosts, Eickhoff and Gonzalez had two hits each as the Chillicothe bats remained their recent quietude.
Gardner was three for five with two RBI for the winners, with one of the two times he didn’t hit safely being a potentially-pivotal interference call on him that ended the top of the fifth. With the bases loaded and two outs in a then 2-1 game, a Van Buren delivery got a distance away from catcher Metcalf to the third-base side. When, as the runner at third tried to score, the scrambling catcher’s throw back toward his pitcher covering home plate struck batter Gardner, standing just outside the righthanded batter’s box, the runner slid across safely. However, after consultation between the umpires, Gardner’s failure to vacate the home plate area to allow the Mudcats to try to retire the runner coming home was ruled to be interference. That both negated the run and produced the third out of the inning, keeping the Fish in front, 2-1.