Freshly-arrived hurler from Minnesota holds Iowa-based Peak Prospects team to four hits, two runs in 7-plus innings. Wargo steals home with eventual game-winner in seventh, executes clutch defensive play to preserve 1-run lead in eighth inning

GRANGER, Iowa — Effectively a month into their 2019 season, the Chillicothe (Mo.) Mudcats college-level, summer baseball team finally played a non-league game Friday (June 28), after the weather and other causes thwarted several such previously-schedule contests.

Thanks to a pair of players – one of whom had been a Fish for about a day – with 5-letters surnames that end in “o,” they got a “W.”

Brian Vanyo, a freshman, righthanded hurler for the University of Minnesota-Morris this past year school, was added to the Chillicothe roster in the wake of this week’s Wednesday-Thursday “All-Star break” to help replace a hurler who came up ailing about a week before and another who had a change in family situation that caused him to become unavailable to play this summer.

Despite other players having a month’s head start on him, in terms of game readiness, the slight (5’10”, 155 pounds) Vanyo was sensational on the hill, holding the Peak Prospects team from a Peak Performance-sponsored Des Moines, Iowa-area baseball “academy” to two runs – one unearned – and four hits in 7-plus innings as the Mudcats notched a 4-3 road, non-MINK League victory.

Chillicothe will carry an overall mark of 12-8 and a league record of 11-8 into a Saturday 7 p.m. league road game at Sedalia. Should the Fish manage to halt their 9-games losing streak against the Bombers at Sedalia's Liberty Park Stadium, they'd pull within a half-game of the second-place, defending-champion Sedalia club in the MINK's North Division.

Although Chillicothe had multiple chances to post a big, crooked number  of runs, it finished the night having settled for a single run in four frames, just enough for Vanyo (1-0) and relievers Collin Chalmers and Chandler Griggs to make work for a win.

The critical figure in both the Fish’s offensive production and key defensive aid of the pitchers was league All-Star infielder Tate Wargo.

He drove home Chillicothe’s second run with an ungloved second-inning line drive that actually became an inning-ending double play, but not before Chet Merritt had crossed home plate from third prior to the non-force third out was executed.

Wargo then boldly delivered what, at the time in the top of the seventh inning, was an insurance run, but eventually stood as the game-winning marker when he stole home between 2-outs pitches to Nolan Metcalf, one of the team’s top and most-productive hitters thus far this summer.

On the next pitch after Wargo’s brash dash from third base drew a too-low throw from the started Peak Prospects pitcher, Metcalf was retired, meaning the Mudcats’ fourth run – the one they won by – would not have been posted without Wargo’s winning wager.

The Benid, Ill., resident wasn’t through impacting the game with his thievery, though.

When Peak Prospects, without getting a hit, pushed across a pair of eighth-inning runs against Vanyo and Chalmers, they had the potential tying run within 90 feet of home plate and lead run at second with only one out when a bouncing ball was hit toward second sacker Wargo.

Playing in, the Mudcat cleanly fielded the grounder and pegged a strike to home plate, where catcher Brady Welch could glove the throw and put the tag on a sliding baserunner for the second out of the eight, keeping it a 4-3 Chillicothe lead.

Chalmers then fanned the next batter to hold onto the lead he’d inherited and Griggs took over in the ninth and retired the side in order, including a pair of strikeouts.

Chillicothe’s first run had come across in the opening half-inning when Dom Trevino’s close-play double on a 1-out hit to left-center was followed by the first of Logan Eickhoff’s three hits as he hiked his .400-plus batting average even more.

Not hinting at how effective he’d be the rest of the way until walking the leadoff batter in the eighth, Vanyo was touched for an unearned run in his first inning as a Fish. A 1-out walk, a single, a passed ball, and a deep fly out to center tied the game 1-1 in the PP half of the first.

After Merritt restored the Mudcats’ lead in the second before the completion of the inning-ending 4-6-5 double play, Trevino scored again in the fifth after being beaned by an 1-0 pitch to being the frame. He was held at third as Eickhoff ripped a double to left-center field before scampering home on a 2-outs wild pitch.

Following the departure of Vanyo, whose pitch count was only in the mid 80s as he was given a chance to go back to the mound in the bottom of the eighth, Chalmers repeated the 5-pitches, leadoff walk that ended Vanyo’s night to the first man he faced. An error by a Mudcats infielder then loaded the bases with no outs. 

A tap on which the only out Chillicothe could manage was at first base made it 4-2 and put the tying run at second. After a wild pitch let another run score and put the tying run at third, Wargo made his key pickup and throw home to preserve the Mudcats’ lead.

Statistically, Chillicothe unofficially out-hit the Peak Prospects 13-4 with Eickhoff and Hunter Johnson posting three hits apiece. Eickhoff scored a run and drove one in. Metcalf and Trevino tacked on two hits each.

With his perfect ninth inning, Griggs earned his first save as a Mudcat, joining two others as having posted a save.