Sears' Walkoff Home Run in Ninth Walkoff Wednesday Winner for Chillicothe (Mo.) BB Mudcats
Game-winner follows tying solo blast by hot-starting Greyson Barrett with one out in ninth of game played at Trenton
- Only third walkoff home by Mudcats in their 19 seasons, joining Esquerra (2011) and Lukes (2013)
- Mudcats slated to host Nevada in Chillicothe Friday, Saturday; Meadville's Fletcher posited as Saturday starting pitcher
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
After the guest Sedalia Bombers marked their first-ever appearance at Trenton’s Burleigh Grimes Field by rocketing three missiles over the relatively-friendly fences there Wednesday night, the host Chillicothe Hornets – including multiple team members who called the diamond home the past year or two while playing for North Central Missouri College’s Pirates – brought the Bombers down with a few, old-fashioned cannonballs of their own.
Having early in the game having erased a 4-0 deficit, the Mudcats (3-3, 2-3 league) followed a 4-runs bottom of the eighth inning that rubbed out most of a 9-4 gap by muscling up for two solo home runs in the bottom of the ninth to snatch away a 10-9 MINK League triumph from Sedalia.
With one out in the ninth, Californian Greyson Barrett – the last player added to the Mudcats’ 2021 roster only days before the season began after the versatile Texas Wesleyan University player solicited the team for an opportunity – belted his third home run of the season and the past three games, a towering shot by the left-handed hitter over the right-field fence only about 310 feet away. That tied it, 9-9.
Following a routine fly ball to center field for the second out, right-handed-hitting catcher Tanner Sears, a Higginsville resident who broke NCMC’s single-season record for runs batted in this spring after transferring to the Trenton junior college, tagged a 2-0 pitch from former Marshall High School star Ben Haug to left field, where it carried over the fence about 330 feet away for a game-ending roundtripper.
The blow – only the third Mudcats’ walkoff home run in their 18-plus seasons – made NCMC and Mudcats teammate Koby Linder the game’s winning pitcher after throwing three innings and Mudcats head coach Tyler Hudlow, one of their assistant coaches at the Trenton school, victorious in his first head coaching outing at Grimes Field.
Previous Fish walkoff homers had come from Zach Esquerra in June 2011 when his extra-inning grand slam closed out the St. Joseph Mustangs 8-4 and from Nathan Lukes, who hit a game-winning inside-the-park home run with a runner on to defeat Joplin 5-4 in July 2013.
Extending the game’s Mudcats/NCMC connections further, the Chillicothe summer team’s eighth victory in a row at the Trenton stadium came exactly seven years after that win skein began with a 10-1 victory over Omaha Diamond Spirit in the opener of a doubleheader on the Mudcats’ second of what have become annual visits to the field named for the long-deceased baseball Hall of Famer.
In 2014’s game-1 victory, the winning pitcher for the Mudcats was newly-added righthanded pitcher Caleb Bounds, who had recently finished up two seasons of pitching at NCMC and surprisingly threw six strong innings after not having pitched competitively for about a month.
Bounds would go on to win four games for the 2014 Fish and repeat that in each of the next two seasons, becoming the team’s all-time leader in wins by a wide margin.
Then, in 2018, Bounds was handed the head coaching reins of the Chillicothe club for the next two seasons and, in fact, with his struggling first team strapped for healthy pitchers, started and won a non-league game in 2018 to raise his club record for pitching victories to 13, nearly double a quartet of 7-games winners, including Chillicothean Colin Parker.
While Sears’ closeout sale rang up Sedalia and, with Linder thus getting the winning pitching decision and Hudlow the coaching triumph, making the homecoming reunion for those three and Mudcats outfielder Braedyn Brewer a happy and memorable one, it still is Barrett who stood most brightly in the spotlight.
Already one of the club’s two best hitters in the early going of the young season, the Bakersfield, Calif., resident twice turned an umpire’s call he likely considered a lemon into some highly-satisfying lemonade, extending his strong beginning into a historically-successful one.
Swinging the bat for a team whose pitchers have often struggled to avoid walking opponents and paying a price for it – even though the trio of hurlers Chillicothe used Wednesday only handed out four bases on balls, two of them set up 2-outs, 2-runs homers for the Bombers, Barrett believed he had watched a 3-balls pitch miss the strike zone wide on the outside as he batted with the bases full in a then 4-1 game in the third inning and again in a 9-8 contest in the ninth. Each time, the home plate umpire ruled the pitches caught a piece of the strike zone, continuing Barrett’s at-bat.
Rather than fume about it, the Mudcat made Sedalia sorry he got a chance to swing his lumber.
Two pitches after the third-inning call against him, Barrett ripped a bases-loaded, full-count delivery past the first baseman and into the right-field corner. Because the count was 3-2, all three baserunners were on the move with the pitch, allowing all three to score with no problem on a 3-runs double.
In the ninth, trying to protect the 1-run lead against the clearly-dangerous Chillicothe hitter, missed the zone with the first three deliveries. After one called strike, the righthander’s offering again was ruled to have nicked the outer edge even as Barrett tossed his bat away and took a stride or two toward first base.
Called back to the box to see another pitch, the Chillicothe designated hitter did what his position title prescribed. He launched a loud, high drive which carried majestically deep into right field and didn’t descend until it was beyond the fence for a game-tying, 1-out homer and his fourth run batted in of the night.
Whether the Mudcats would have wound up with four runs in the third had Barrett gotten the ball-4 call he thought was warranted that only would have pushed a second marker of the inning across or whether the ninth inning might have developed differently if he’’d landed only at first base with a walk, rather than back in the dugout with a score-squaring roundtripper is unknowable. In hindsight, though, the Sedalia team probably wishes it had gotten the chance to find out.
In ripping not only the 3-runs double and home run, but also another 2-bagger in five at-bats, the Mudcat from Texas Wesleyan further improved his multiple already-team-best numbers.
Through six games, he paces this year’s team in batting average (.407), hits (11), home runs (3), doubles (4), runs batted in (14), slugging rate (a very lofty .889), and on-base rate plus slugging percentage (OPS) at 1.303.
Barrett’s 14 RBI – a rate of over two per game – surpasses 2017 Mudcat Justin Blasinski, also a lefty-swinging first baseman/outfielder/DH, for the strongest early-season run production ever. Blasinski knocked in 13 in his first six games en route to the second-largest season RBI total in team history (42).
Barrett finished Wednesday’s win three for five with the tying home run in the ninth, two doubles, and two runs scored. Sears was the only other Fish with multiple hits, his winner following a run-scoring single in the 4-runs eighth-inning rally that set up his and Barrett’s heroics in the ninth.
Chillicothe returns to its true home – “Chuck” Haney Field at “June” Shaffer Memorial Park Stadium – Friday and Saturday nights for more battles with another MINK League South Division foe, Nevada. The Fish shaded the Griffons 12-10 last Sunday.
Hudlow told the C-T after Wednesday’s win that he anticipates Logan Snow starting on the mound on Friday night and Meadville’s Conner Fletcher to make his second start on Saturday.
Both of those games are slated for 7:05 p.m. starts.
Statistically Wednesday, Linder (1-0) got the victory despite a decidedly-mixed outing. The righty from Green Castle in the Kirksville area gave up three hits and a walk, leading to two eighth-inning runs on a Branden McGinnis home run that widened the Bombers’ lead to five.
Also going deep for the visitors had been Jacob McWhirter with the bases empty off starting Fish hurler Scott Duensing and Brandon Stahlman with a man on against first Chillicothe reliever Trae Brownell in the sixth, a blow that broke the 4-4 tie.
Thanks to Sears’ prevention of extra innings, the game concluded in a tidy 2:58 on the very warm evening (game time temperature was 91 degrees).
That relatively-quick pace was in spite of the game producing 28 total strikeouts – 16 of those by Bombers batters, two of whom fanned four times each. Both Duensing and Sedalia starting pitcher Jake McMahill had 10-K nights, Duensing in only five innings before exiting and McMahill in six. Linder fanned five more Bombers in his three innings, while walking only one.
Although Duensing was charged with four runs on four hits over his five frames, only one was earned. The Mudcats committed five physical errors and another one or two mental ones. Sedalia similarly surrendered four unearned runs out of Chillicothe’s winning total of 10 with McMahill not allowing any earned runs.