Visiting Bombers' 4-runs sixth holds up as reliever Darnell thwarts bases-full, no-outs Chillicothe threat in bottom of ninth Saturday, July 6, 2019, for 8-6 Sedalia MINK League triumph
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Everything seemed so familiar Saturday evening (July 6, 2019) at “Chuck” Haney Field in “June” Shaffer Memorial Park Stadium.
Two-thirds of the way through the Chillicothe (Mo.) Mudcats’ MINK League baseball game against the Sedalia Bombers, Sedalia held a multiple-runs lead. As had happened the last two times the teams had played, the Mudcats closed in during the last three innings, poised to once more pull a win out of the fire.
At the last moment, though, Chillicothe’s signal dropped out and, instead of another in their series of 2019 comeback wins, the Mudcats slipped back to the .500 level in home action this summer, falling to the Bombers 8-6.
Down 8-3 going to the bottom of the seventh inning, the Fish netted a run that inning, but lost a runner attempting to steal home to end the frame. In the eighth, they inched within 8-5 on Tate Wargo’s 2-outs single and had the bases loaded with two outs and their top hitter, Logan Eickhoff, at bat before his popup terminated the inning.
Finally, in the ninth, an error and back-to-back walks to begin seemed to portend yet another dramatic conclusion and walk-off win, only to see Sedalia righthander Sam Darnell enter and retire 3-straight batters and save an 8-6 Bombers win.
Instead of keeping pace with MINK League North Division leader St. Joseph – one game behind – as the Mustangs were edging Jefferson City at home, the Mudcats (17-10, 15-9 MINK) dropped to two games out and only a half-game in front of third-place Sedalia (13-8, 13-8), entering Sunday’s play. On Sunday, Chillicothe will visit Jefferson City for the first of consecutive nights, while Sedalia will host St. Joseph.
The key of Saturday’s Sedalia success, aside from Darnell’s high-pressure save, might well have been tough at-bats the Bombers took through most of the first six innings.
Repeatedly, they extended at-bats in which batters were down 0-2 or 1-2 to last a half-dozen pitches or more, with the Bombers hitter ultimately reaching safely via hit, walk, hit batsman, or error on numerous occasions.
Because of its batters’ peskiness, Sedalia was able to push the pitch count of Chillicothe starting pitcher Tyler Venditti (1-3) into the 90s through five innings. That led to his removal after five, even though the score was only 4-3 then and the Bombers had not hit the starter all that hard.
Just as happened in the teams’ meeting at Sedalia exactly a week earlier, the first relief hurler chosen by Mudcats head coach Caleb Bounds was totally ineffective and, by the time the coach could get another hurler ready and into the action, Sedalia had significantly expanded a lead.
All five Bombers batters Collin Chalmers faced at the start of the sixth reached safely – two on walks, three on singles – before Brock Pettit took over. Had Venditti been able to get quicker outs in shorter counts and squeezed six innings out of his start, rather than only five, it’s possible Bounds would have gone straight to Pettit to start the seventh inning. As it was, Pettit’s latest strong performance – no runs on three hits over three innings, although two of the three runners he inherited in the sixth scored, one in unearned manner on a dropped sacrifice fly – only succeeded in keeping Sedalia in sight.
Thus, when Chillicothe’s offense made its normal late push, while it closed the gap, the key hit didn’t surface this time and the Bombers flew back south with a key victory.
The Mudcats used single runs in each of the first two innings – the first scored by Tate Wargo on Blaine Ray’s sacrifice fly and the second plated by Wargo’s scoring fly ball that let Jack Grace cross the plate – to gain a small lead early.
The advantage vanished in the top of the third when, just as would be repeated in the sixth, the first five Bombers to step in reached. A 2-runs double to left by A.J. Gardner, the league’s best hitter this season, was the big blow as the visitors slipped ahead 3-2.
Chillicothe immediately tied it in its half of the inning on Eickhoff’s second-straight hit, a Nolan Metcalf hit-and-run single to right-center field, and a 1-out groundout by Brady Welch.
Venditti’s own throwing error when he failed to get a good grip on the ball after fielding Gardner’s inning-opening tap to start the fifth resulted in Sedalia regaining the lead. A hit batter and Brendon Davis’ run-scoring single to left field on one of those aforementioned 1-2 pitches put the Mudcats behind again.
When Chalmers didn’t have it after coming on the next inning, a successful seventh-inning double-steal by Wargo and Eickhoff on which Wargo stole home, Wargo’s RBI hit in the eighth, and Grace’s run-scoring fielder’s choice grounder in the ninth only managed to get Chillicothe back close.
Statistically, both sides had cause to kick themselves for not scoring more. The Fish left a dozen runners aboard, including seven in the last three innings, and Sedalia stranded 13.
The guests out-hit their hosts 12-10, paced by Brice Pannier’s 3-for-5 game. The Mudcats had four players with two hits apiece – Brandon Settles, Wargo, Eickhoff, and Metcalf. Leadoff man Wargo also scored twice and drove in a pair of runs.
Sedalia starting pitcher Jackson Schmedding earned the win, lasting 6-2/3 innings with four runs allowed on eight hits, but it was the three Sedalia relief hurlers’ success in bailing their predecessor out of hot water which might have been the pitching story.
Lefthanders Noah Skaggs in the seventh and Cole Young in the eighth each entered with two men on and prevented them from scoring. Darnell then 1-upped them in the ninth, coming on after Young loaded the bases to leave two of the three Mudcats aboard.
Chillicothe committed three errors, leading to three unearned runs. Sedalia had two boots, resulting in one undeserved Mudcats tally.