Pitchers’ Wildness Buries Chillicothe (Mo.) Mudcats in Second-Straight Loss to start 2021 Season
Offense, blanked for 11-straight innings, perks up some late in 11-4 loss to A’s Friday
CLARINDA, Iowa — Clarinda A’s long-time field manager Ryan Eberly certainly hasn’t had to worry about being lonely in the third-base coach’s box while the A’s have served as the opposition for the Chillicothe Mudcats’ first two games of the 2021 MINK League baseball season.
After the southern Iowa squad scored seven times and left 11 other runners on base in the Mudcats’ Wednesday, June 2, season opener, it far surpassed both of those numbers when they met again on Clarinda Municipal Stadium’s Merl Eberly Field Friday, June 4.
Ripping 10 hits – half of them for extra bases, while accepting 10 walks and sustaining four other hit batsmen (not to mentioning having two other batters reach on errors), the host A’s racked up an 11-4 filleting of the Fish, even while stranding a whopping 16 men (an average of two each inning in which the hosts batted.
Chillicothe (0-2, 0-2 league) at least finally showed signs of offensive life in the latter half of the game after a 5-runs bottom of the fifth left Clarinda in front 7-0.
The Mudcats ripped nine hits in the last four frames to match the A’s’ game total and might actually have injected some intrigue into the last couple of innings if not for hitting into double plays in the sixth, seventh, and eighth.
The Chillicothe college-level, wood-bat team will chase its initial win of the new season and Tyler Hudlow’s tenure as head coach Saturday (June 5) when it plays its only non-league game of the season, a 7:05 p.m. home contest at “June” Shaffer Memorial Park Stadium against the Queen City Crush, a Springfield, Mo.-based squad.
Depending on what he saw in a “sideline throw” Friday, Hudlow was considering to use recent Meadville High School graduate Conner Fletcher as starting pitcher in Saturday’s game.
Blanked over the last six innings of their opening defeat two nights before, Chillicothe’s Mudcats managed only one hit and a pair of walks in five innings against Clarinda’s Friday starting pitcher, lefthander Steve Spurgeon Jr.
In an immediate bad sign, each of the first four Fish batters reached base safely in the game, but without any scoring. A runner was cut down on the front end of an attempted double-steal of third and second bases for the first out.
A walk and a dropped fly ball in the outfield followed, but only left the bases loaded with no runs on the scoreboard. When Spurgeon struck out the next two men – each on a 2-2 pitch, the visitors had squandered a chance to post an early lead. After the A’s then put up two unearned runs against Chillicothe starting and losing pitcher Logan Snow (0-1), the Fish were behind for keeps.
Snow shrugged off his sabotaged start to the game to hold the A’s scoreless the next three innings, but, with Spurgeon retiring 11 Mudcats in a row from the second through the fifth, the Chillicothe pitcher still trailed as he started to wear down a bit in the fifth.
After retiring the leadoff batter in the Clarinda fifth, Snow hit the next batter and the one after him. Following his balk that moved the runners to second and third, he was tagged for a 2-runs double down the right-field line by lefty-swinging Jeff Clarke, doubling the deficit to 4-0.
A popup presented a chance for the damage to be limited to two runs, but a Clarinda double to the left-center field gap scored Clarke and ended Snow’s stint on the bump.
Lefthander Joe Shapiro was called on, but, like fellow southpaw Kale Harris in the season-opening loss, could not throw many strikes.
He walked each of the first three batters he faced, forcing home another A’s run before a grounder to third was handled too slowly and the resulting infield hit on a close play at first permitted yet another run to go on the board for the home team.
Once Spurgeon departed at the beginning of the sixth, Chillicothe made some inroads against righthanded reliever Keean Allen.
A leadoff triple by Braedyn Brewer, who repeated his 2-hits effort of the opener as he again served as designated hitter, set up the end of the Mudcats’ scoreless-innings streak. It terminated two batters later when Brewer’s North Central Missouri College teammate Tanner Sears banged an opposite-field double off the fence in right-center field.
Sears then caught Clarinda off-guard a bit and successfully stole third, allowing him to score when Max Huntley’s hard-hit ball handcuffed the A’s second baseman on the short hop and trickled away for a run-scoring infield hit.
With one out and the Iowans’ reliever clearly hittable, the Mudcats seemed to have a potential big inning going. However that died on the next pitch when a line drive was speared by the shortstop, who threw to first to double off Huntley, who’d initially broken toward second base on contact.
Chillicothe’s third pitcher of the game, Cole Mammenga, provided a chance for the bit of Mudcats momentum to grow by working a scoreless home sixth.
His efforts were rewarded when the bottom third of the Chillicothe lineup all reached base to open the seventh.
Greyson Barrett started the inning with a hit to center, Jaxon Hotta absorbed a pitch, and newly-arrived middle infielder Petey Taylor beat out a great bunt down the third-base line to load the sacks with Fish.
Chillicothe leadoff man Payton Allen made a bid for a hit through the left side of the infield, but diminutive Clarinda shortstop Travis Welker got to it and threw back to second base for a forceout as Barrett scored.
With runners still at the corners and only one out in what stood at a 7-3 game at that moment, the Mudcats seemed ready to pull at least a run or two closer, but instead saw their budding rally suddenly snuffed out.
Brewer hit an 0-1 pitch sharply on the ground, but right at the second baseman, who started an inning-ending double play that kept Chillicothe four runs back.
The Iowa team then touched Mammenga for two runs in its seventh, widening the spread back to six runs at 9-3. Although one more Clarinda double play erased a leadoff walk in the Chillicothe eighth, consecutive singles by Huntley, Zack Cox, and Barrett put another run on the board for the guests. However, that was trumped by two Clarinda runs in the bottom half.
Chillicothe then went fairly quietly in the ninth to end it.
Statistically, the game’s key numbers again was the number of “free baserunners” Mudcats pitchers provided the foe. In addition to the five extra-base hits and five singles by the A’s, the combined 14 walks and hit batters by four Chillicothe twirlers outstripped the Mudcats’ batters’ capacity to keep pace when receiving only three walks and one hit batsman.
Each of the Chillicothe pitchers, including final hurler Mitch Alba, doled out at least two bases on balls in stints ranging from one-third of an inning (Shapiro) to Snow’s 4-2/3 frames. Three of the four drilled at least one batter. Accepting four walks was A’s cleanup man Taylon Mullins-Ohm, while leadoff batter Welker took three plus a hit by pitch.
Not only did each club knock out 10 total hits, but each had four batters with two hits apiece. For the Mudcats, those included Taylor, Barrett, Huntley and the aforementioned Brewer.
For the victorious A’s, Isaac Lopez swatted a solo home run off Alba in the ninth inning and a triple off Snow in his three official at-bats. He also walked and was hit once each.
With his two hits Friday, Chillicothe’s Brewer is four for eight (.500 average) at season’s outset.