Chillicothe (Mo.) Baseball Mudcats' Comeback Goes for Naught in 10-innings Loss to League Foe

Nevada (Mo.) Griffons' two unearned runs in 10th, reliever's heat give visitors 9-7 victory Saturday, June 12

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Max Huntley of the Chillicothe (Mo.) Mudcats swats a sixth-inning pitch for a double, igniting a 4-runs inning that led to the Fish tying the Nevada (Mo.) Griffons 7-7 after seven innings of the MINK League baseball game at "June" Shaffer Memorial Park Stadium's "Chuck" Haney Field Saturday, June 12. Although the Mudcats overcame the big deficit, eventually they lost 9-7 in 10 innings, dropping their record to 4-4.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — A MINK League baseball home game which looked lost after a bad fifth inning and eminently winnable only a couple of frames later slipped off the Chillicothe Mudcats’ hook in the 10th inning Saturday (June 12).

Having sunk into a 7-0 hole, due mostly to a 5-runs Nevada Griffons fifth, the Mudcats hit their way back into contention with four markers in the bottom of the sixth and caught up at 7-all in the seventh, thanks to a pair of blatant Griffons errors.

However, after Chillicothean and Mudcats catcher Wes Brandsgaard tried to bail out his pitcher by gunning down a baserunner who’d walked leading off the top of the 10th, another base on ball, a single, a throwing error, a long sacrifice fly, and a wild pitch eventually let Nevada head back to Vernon County a 9-7 winner.

The defeat dropped Chillicothe back to .500 overall (4-4) and below it (3-4) in the league heading into a week of only road games. The Mudcats’ next home action will be late next Sunday afternoon (5:05 p.m.) when the St. Joseph Mustangs visit.

Nevada stood 5-4 overall and in the league after splitting the pair of weekend games at “June” Shaffer Memorial Park Stadium’s “Chuck” Haney Field.

Having earlier escaped the 7-0 sinkhole, Chillicothe put up a fight in the bottom of the 10th against third Griffons hurler Cameron Saso, as well.

It put the potential tying run in scoring position with two outs after Braedyn Brewer’s third-straight hit, big first baseman Trevor Kardell’s “leg” hit with two out, and a successful double-steal on which the Nevada catcher foolishly threw to third trying to get Brewer’s meaningless advance there. However, a soft grounder to the first baseman on the next pitch ended the game.

The result made a winner of scintillating Griffons relief pitcher Sebastian Kirchner, who struck out seven of the eight Fish he faced in 2-1/3 innings, and a loser of Mudcats bullpenner Koby Linder (2-1), who had thrown a flawless ninth before both undermining himself with the walks to start the 10th and being undercut by a wide throw on a would-be force play at second. Had that out been recorded, the long fly ball by the next batter would have ended the inning with the score still 7-7, rather than plating the tiebreaker.

Chillicothe (Mo.) Mudcats starting pitcher Conner Fletcher prepares to release an early-innings pitch to a Nevada (Mo.) Griffons during the teams' MINK League baseball game at "June" Shaffer Memorial Park Stadium's "Chuck" Haney Field in Chillicothe Saturday, June 12, 2021. Fletcher threw very solidly for 4-2/3 innings before the final four batters he faced hit safely, sending home four runs that put Fletcher and the Fish behind 6-0 in the fifth inning. The 2021 graduate of nearby Meadville High School escaped a losing decision when the Fish rallied to force extra innings, but Nevada then won, 9-7, in 10 innings.

After clearly-tiring Chillicothe starting pitcher Conner Fletcher, with what appeared to be a dozen or more supporters from his nearby hometown of Meadville on hand to support him, was tagged for four hits and four runs with two outs in the fifth to turn a 2-0 contest into a 7-0 one, the host Mudcats took Fletcher off the decision hook.

In his first game with the club, newly-arrived Chillicothe (Mo.) Mudcats, infielder Zack Stewart delivers a sixth-inning double down the right-field line to drive in Max Huntley with the host's first run in their MINK League baseball game against the Nevada (Mo.) Griffons at "June" Shaffer Memorial Park Stadium's "Chuck" Haney Field Saturday, June 12, 2021. After rallying from a 7-0 deficit to force extra innings, the Mudcats gave up two unearned runs in the 10th and lost to Nevada, 9-7.

Back-to-back doubles by the bottom two men in the Chillicothe lineup – Max Huntley and newly-arrived Zack Stewart – broke up Nevada starting pitcher Richard Kiel’s shutout with one out in the sixth.

With two down, Brewer’s hit into left field plated Stewart before a dropped fly ball off Tanner Sears’ bat allowed Brewer to wheel all the way around from first base and Sears to reach second. He then scored when a low throw on Kardell’s ground ball toward the hole between the shortstop and third baseman resulted in a throwing error which let Sears score.

Down 7-4 at the seventh inning stretch, Chillicothe continued its late attack on the Nevada starting pitcher who shares the same name as the apparently-unrelated late 7’2”, 300-plus-pounds actor Richard Kiel (best known for his role as the steel-mouthed “Jaws” in the Roger Moore 007 films “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “Moonraker,” as an eloquent Happy Gilmore fan in the movie of that name, and in the original “The Longest Yard” prison football flick).

With two outs and two on in the home seventh, Brewer launched a booming triple off the fence in deep left-center field and then dashed home with the equalizer on a short wild pitch thrown by Kirchner to the first batter he faced.

Righthander Kirchner eventually fanned that batter to keep the game tied, then followed a leadoff walk in the eighth with six Ks in a row, sending the contest to extra innings.

Statistically, winner Kirchner had the game’s eye-popping pitching numbers with his overpowering seven whiffs. Linder, who worked the last two innings on the hill for the Fish, took the loss after previously collecting two wins in relief.

For his part, Chillicothe starter Fletcher could have had a better fate.

He allowed only four hits and two runs through the first four innings, needing only 56 pitches. However, in the fifth, after alternating walks and outs through the first four batters to be on the brink of completing five innings, it all caved in on him.

In the space of only seven deliveries, Nevada twice alternated doubles and singles, plating four runs with the first three of those hits, to send him to the showers charged with six runs.

Chillicothe (Mo.) Mudcats pitcher Cole Mammenga fires home a pitch after relieving starting hurler Conner Fletcher in the fifth inning of the club's MINK League baseball game against the Nevada (Mo.) Griffons MINK League at "June" Shaffer Memorial Park Stadium's "Chuck" Haney Field Saturday, June 12, 2021. Mammenga allowed no earned runs in his 3-1/3 innings as the Fish offense rallied to tie things at 7-7 in the seventh, but the visitors picked up two unearned runs in the 10th to win, 9-7.

Nevada got its seventh marker in unearned fashion in the seventh off reliever Cole Mammenga, who’d end up working an impressive 3-1/3 innings of 2-hits, no earned runs ball while his teammates erased the 7-runs deficit and took Fletcher off the hook.

The contest’s offensive standout was the fast-finishing Brewer. Zero for three halfway through, the North Central Missouri College product finished three for six with three runs driven in and two scored.

Huntley also had three hits, including the double which ignited the Mudcats’ comeback in the sixth inning.

Nevada had four players with two hits apiece, paced by Joshua Campuzano’s pair of doubles.

Chillicothe stranded 14 baserunners – half of them in the first three innings, including the bases full in the second and third – and committed three errors, leading to three unearned runs.

Nevada’s two boots paved the way to two undeserved Mudcats markers.

Each side stroked 11 hits.