Barrett’s Second Long Ball of Night Lets Chillicothe Mudcats Hang On at Nevada
Californian matches teammate’s power output of night before as Fish get second win
NEVADA, Mo. — Neither likely has ever heard of the mid-20th-century show tune about one-upsmanship – a vanilla version of trash-talk, but 2021 Chillicothe Mudcats outfielders Greyson Barrett and Josh Swinehart engaged in a bit of “anything you can do, I can do better” on the baseball diamond the latter part of the weekend, lifting the Fish back to the surface early this season.
Off to a 0-2 start after losing back-to-back MINK League games to Clarinda, Iowa, the Mudcats got an unprecedented pair of over-the-wall home runs from Swinehart in an 11-6 non-league win at home Saturday, then used a pair of Barrett bombs over the friendlier fences of Nevada’s Lyons Stadium Sunday evening to register a wobbly 12-10 league verdict over the host Griffons.
At the .500 mark overall and in the league “wins” column after two misfires, the Mudcats will be back in action at home Monday night (June 7), welcoming the loop’s newest member, the Peak Prospects from Des Moines, Iowa, in a 7:05 p.m. clash of North Division clubs. Righthander Mitch Alba (Franklin, Wis., Eastern Illinois U.) is ticketed to start on the mound the hosts.
The Peak Prospects, from the Des Moines-area-based Peak Performers baseball academy, are off to 0-4 starts in the league and overall. Two summers ago, the Mudcats defeated the Peak Performers in two out of three then-non-league contests.
At Nevada Sunday evening, on a field notoriously hard for holding onto leads, a blazing start with Chillicothe’s batters against Griffons starting pitcher Atley Jacome was, by a margin of only an inch or two, nearly nullified at the finish line by the home team.
Keyed by lefty-swinging left fielder Barrett’s 2-runs shot down the right-field line as the second batter of the game, the Mudcats seized a 3-0 lead after an inning and ballooned it to 9-1 after 2-1/2 frames on two runs in the second and four in the third, highlighted by Chillicothean Wes Brandsgaard’s 2-runs double to the fence in left-center field.
When Mudcats starting pitcher Jake Young (Lisle, Ill., Fairmont State U.), despite occasional control lapses, made it through six innings with only three runs allowed on two hits and Barrett pounded another drive over the fence in right following walks to Nos. 8 and 9 batters Brandsgaard and Petey Taylor, the visitors seemed to have things locked down, 12-3.
In fact, following Barrett’s blast, the next three Fish reached base, as well, perhaps putting a 10-runs-lead rule victory after seven innings very much on the table with one more hit. However, a strikeout stranded all three, assuring the game would go at least eight innings. Soon enough, it was clear the game would go nine – and maybe more.
With Chillicothe’s bats – aside from Barrett’s one well-aimed swing in the top of the seventh that left him with six runs batted in on the night, one shy of the twice-done team record for a game – having gone mostly silent against the Griffons’ bullpen following Jacome’s departure during the third frame, the Mudcats’ bullpen – and eventually the defense – made things far too tight for comfort.
Three hits, a walk, and a Chillicothe fielding error in the bottom of the seventh put four runs on the Nevada side of the scoreboard against Jake Gernon. That line would have been nearly pristine, though, if Gernon’s left arm or glove were an inch or two longer.
After striking out the first two batters he faced, the Chillicothe bullpenner allowed a seemingly-harmless, ground-ball single into left field. A wild pitch then advanced that man to second before a ground ball was hit back up the middle over the first-base edge of the mound. Gernon, his glove on his left hand, extended his arm to try to field the ball, but it caught only the end of his leather and trickled slowly behind him for an infield hit, rather than a groundout to end a scoreless frame.
That near-miss blew up on the hurler when he walked the next batter on four pitches to load the bases and saw his 0-1 pitch to the next Griffon, Jesse Fonteboa, launched nearly to the fence in right-center field for a 3-runs double.
When a follow-up grounder hit sharply to shortstop was booted and rolled into short center field, Fonteboa scored without a play and the Mudcats’ margin had shrunk to 12-7. Rather than looking at an early, “runs-rule” victory, the visitors now looked to be scrambling to hold on to a win by any margin.
When Gernon returned in the eighth and had a mostly-uneventful inning – allowing a 2-outs walk, the Mudcats seemed to have steadied the ship, especially when erstwhile catcher Tanner Sears was sent to the bump to work the bottom of the ninth and induced routine fly outs to right fielder Lucas Loos from the first two Nevada batters.
It turned out to be a false-positive, however.
A walk – one of another nine dished out by Chillicothe pitchers (although they avoided any hit batsmen for the first time) – was followed by a clean single to center field by Fonteboa on a 0-2 pitch. Another walk – after a 9-pitch at-bat – loaded the bases, although the potential tying run still was in the on-deck circle.
On a 1-1 offering, righthander Sears seemingly was rewarded with a sharply-hit ground ball right at an infielder, but the play wasn’t made, going off the fielder’s glove and into the outfield as two more runs scored. Sears would have to face the potential tying run, after all.
A wild pitch on a 2-2 pitch to Conner Wytko let another run score and removed the potential forceout at second base, making the hurler’s task more difficult as the score closed to 12-10.
Finally, the payoff pitch to Wytko – a high fastball – drew a swing and a miss. The Mudcats had held on – barely – and could have a happy 3-hours trip home as a .500 team.
Statistically, with his second-inning sacrifice fly to deep right-center that only perhaps about 10 feet away from a grand slam added to his two roundtrippers, Barrett (Bakersfield, Calif./Texas Wesleyan U.) came within one run batted in of tying the late Steve Martin (2003) and Michael Klein (2014) with seven “ribbies” in a game.
As it is, he’s racked up a team-high 10 RBI in only four games while batting .444 (eight for 18), following his 3-for-5 contest Sunday night.
His two homers came 24 hours after teammate Josh Swinehart had pulled off that feat during the home win over the Springfield-based, FCA-sponsored Queen City Crush. It is the first time in the Mudcats’ 19 seasons that players have had multi-home-run nights back to back.
By going two for three with two walks, two runs driven in, and three runs scored, local Brandsgaard is off to a .429 start (three for eight) with the Mudcats. He also threw out a would-be basestealer to end the Nevada seventh inning Sunday, a play which gained much-greater importance by game’s end.
Chillicothe out-hit Nevada 12-6, but the Griffons stranded only five men. In addition to Fonteboa’s 3-runs double in the seventh, Nevada (1-3, 1-3 league) had a solo home run to left field from starting first baseman Braeden Hinton in the second.
In lasting six, Young (1-0) was the first Mudcats pitcher to work more than four innings.
While charged with three runs in the ninth, North Central Missouri College’s Sears did not surrender any earned markers and only the one hit.