Fish don't blink after 7-runs Sedalia seventh Saturday (June 29), scoring three times in eighth and again in ninth to end 3-plus-years win drought at Sedalia with 8-7 victory that, with St. Joseph loss thrown in, tightens 2019 MINK League baseball North Division race
SEDALIA, Mo. — After a sensational first six innings by Chillicothe (Mo.) Mudcats starting pitcher Tyler Venditti provided the main impetus for a 2-0 Mudcats lead going to the home half of the seventh Saturday evening (June 29, 2019) at sun-saturated and sweat-drenched Liberty Park Stadium, it looked like the host Sedalia Bombers had thrown their 3-years-plus MINK League baseball hex on the Fish one more time. However, rather than concede, turn tail, and swim/run away, the Mudcats somehow rediscovered their late-innings magic of earlier this summer and posted one of the college-level, summer baseball program’s best wins in years.
Defeated by the Bombers the previous nine meetings in a row on the Sedalia diamond – often doomed by one big inning that either erased a tenuous Chillicothe lead or blew the game open early en route to a Sedalia triumph, the Mudcats shrugged off a 7-runs bottom of the seventh which obliterated their 2-runs lead and posted three tallies each in the eighth and ninth while getting superb relief pitching from Brock Pettit to walk off Dey Field 8-7 victors.
The exciting victory drew the Fish (13-8, 12-8 MINK League) within a half-game of Sedalia in the league’s North Division standings. The Bombers ended the night 11-6 both overall and in the league. With division- and league-leading St. Joseph also bowing Saturday, Chillicothe went to bed that night only two games out of first place.
Before visiting league opponent Nevada a second time Monday night, Chillicothe is to play a non-league, home doubleheader with Iowa’s Peak Prospects Sunday at 5:05 p.m. The date originally was to be a single game, but the previous weekend’s early-game rainout of a Peak Prospects visit to “June” Shaffer Memorial Park Stadium’s “Chuck” Haney Field left both teams desirous of making up the washout. To do so, they re-slated the June 30 date as a doubleheader, rather than only one contest.
Pettit (2-0) retired both men he faced with two runners on when the righthander entered Saturday’s game at Sedalia, finally twisting shut Sedalia’s seventh-inning scoring spigot. He went on to toss 2-2/3 innings of 1-hit scoreless ball to become the Mudcats’ first pitcher with more than one victorious decision in 2019. He notched win No. 2 on the road, just as he had No. 1 in an 11-8 June 9 win in relief at Nevada.
Striking out four and walking none while setting down eight of the nine batters from probably the league’s most-potent attack, Pettit (Ashland, Ill.) was rewarded for his sterling work by an at-last opportunistic Chillicothe offense in the last two frames.
After Sedalia strafed the worn-out Venditti and initial reliever Chandler Griggs in the seventh, Mudcats bats keyed their eighth-inning surge back into contention before the wildness of the Bombers’ fourth of five pitchers did much of the heavy lifting for them in the ninth.
An opposite-field, leadoff double down the right-field line by Nolan Metcalf ignited the visitors’ late charge. After he took third on Chet Merritt’s fly to deep center, Metcalf crossed the plate on a wild pitch as Marcus Gonzalez stood in.
Gonzalez then poked a hit and sauntered home when Brady Welch (Sun City, Ariz.) blasted a shot just over the fence in left-center field for his first home run as a Mudcat. The launch drew the gap down to two.
Thanks to Pettit’s sharp work, it still was 7-5 when Chillicothe got its last chance to hack. It turned out, it didn’t need to too often.
New Sedalia hurler Andrew Frank quickly fell behind on the count to Tate Wargo and walked him on five pitches. After Wargo stole second base as the count went to 0-2 on Dom Trevino, Frank released a would-be curveball too soon and it hit Trevino in the back, sending the potential tying run to first base with no outs.
That put Logan Eickhoff and his batting average of over .400 at the dish, where – to the surprise of many – he twice attempted to bunt and failed to make contact. However, on the second try, the two fast Fish on base were on the move with the delivery and completed a successful double-steal.
With the possible tying run now in scoring position, Eickhoff swung away on the third pitch and lifted a fly ball deep enough to center field that Wargo tagged and scored after the catch. Wisely, Sedalia’s outfielder threw to third after the out to keep Trevino at second, but only for a bit.
Frank followed by plunking another Mudcat – Metcalf – to put the go-ahead run aboard, too. It was the last pitch he delivered.
With new pitcher Conner Darnell on the hill, Merritt twice unsuccessfully tried to bunt. However, just as with Eickhoff earlier, on the second attempt, both baserunners were in motion. When the Sedalia catcher threw to third to try to get the speedier Trevino, his aim was off and the ball sailed down the left-field line. That allowed Trevino to get to his feet and score the tying run without a throw and Metcalf, never breaking stride, hurried on to third on the error.
On the next pitch, Merritt dropped a hit in front of the center fielder and Metcalf jogged home with a run which gave Chillicothe the lead against the odds. While the Mudcats’ scoring stopped there, Pettit made that irrelevant, capping his stellar showing with a flourish of back-to-back strikeouts to end the game, including whiffing Sedalia cleanup man and center fielder A.J. Gardner, probably the league’s most-dangerous hitter. Gardner had homered twice and doubled in Chillicothe’s previous 2019 visit to Sedalia and then had a leadoff homer over the friendly fence in left which began the Bombers’ big seventh inning of this meeting.
The story of the game’s first six innings was Venditti. The righthander kept the Bombers in the hangar to the tune of six 2-hits innings of scoreless ball.
He and counterpart Jackson Schmedding dominated the first four innings before Chillicothe infielder Kole Ficken (Boonville, Mo.) hammered Schmedding’s first offering in the top of the fifth over the left-field barrier for a solo home run.
After the Sedalia starting pitcher was lifted on the steamy night after 86 pitches, reliever Noah Skaggs undermined himself to let the Mudcats’ lead double in the seventh.
The new hurler walked Welch, the first man he faced, then saw Jack Grace leg out a roller into the hole at shortstop. in his first plate appearance since his first home run of the season, Ficken received a signal to bunt from head/third-base coach Caleb Bounds. He got the bunt down in nice shape and then, with the team, received a bonus as Skaggs fielded the ball and fired it beyond the first baseman’s reach for an error that let Welch score.
With runners on second and third bases and no outs, Chillicothe had another chance to significantly up the ante. However, just as when it left two men on in the first inning and then the bases loaded in the second, its recently-diminished offense shorted out. A groundout that erased Grace trying to score was followed by a strikeout and fly out to leave two Fish high and dry at second and third.
When Sedalia broke through in the next half-inning in the wake of that foreboding “miss” by Chillicothe, it seemed all but certain that the Mudcats’ dry spell at Sedalia would be continuing, but they turned the tables.
Statistically Saturday, beyond Chillicothe cleaving its losing streak at Sedalia that dated back to the Mudcats’ 2016 season opener, Pettit’s effort from the bullpen and Venditti’s first six innings were the showstoppers.
At the plate, Welch’s and Ficken’s roundtrippers were their first each. Eight different Fish have “left the yard” this summer – all away from home.
Ficken and Grace had two hits in four at-bats apiece, the only Mudcats with multi-hits games. Sedalia out-hit Chillicothe 9-8 with three Bombers – including 2018 Mudcat Cole Taylor – having two each. Jake Lufft and Clayton Meyer had two RBI apiece.
Bombers pitchers struck out Mudcats batters 15 times. Six separate Fish fanned twice each.