Mudcats blow 12-3 lead in fifth, lose at Jefferson City 13-12 Monday
Host Renegades catch up with three home runs, walk off with walk, wild pitch, and single as Fish skid to 4-6
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Midway through Monday night’s scheduled 9-innings MINK League baseball game at cozy Ernie Vivion Field in Missouri’s capitol city, the Chillicothe Mudcats – for a second time in nine nights – owned a 12-3 lead, creating the opportunity – with a continued offensive push and steady, short-term pitching – for a 10-runs-lead-rule win that could get their long trip home started a bit early.
Neither time did the Fish add to their scoring total. On Monday, after they barely held on at Nevada June 6 to win 12-10, their seemingly-certain victory vanished.
Down by nine with one out in the home half of the fifth inning, Jefferson City’s Renegades used three home runs to amazingly make their deficit disappear in the span of only 12 batters and then posted a walkoff 13-12 win on a 1-out walk, a wild pitch, and a simple single to right field in the ninth.
A second-straight defeat tumbled the Mudcats back below .500 (4-5) on the season and dropped their league record to 3-5. The host Renegades improved to 6-4 overall, 5-4 in the league.
Chillicothe will be idle Tuesday before traveling to Sedalia Wednesday night, then making a late-week road trip to Joplin and Nevada Thursday through Saturday. The Fish will return home to meet St. Joseph next Sunday at 5:05 p.m.
Monday’s game repeated a troubling Mudcats early-season trend for the offense to dry up after sharp starts and for the bullpen to have difficulty corralling opponent bats once they’ve started doing damage.
On this occasion, the friendly fences of Vivion Field made Chillicothe hurlers Jake Young and Jake Gernon pay for a relatively-limited number of free passes onto base they provided.
With the 12-3 lead in the fifth, Young seemed to be cruising, having set down eight of the last nine batters he’d faced, when he suddenly could not get anyone out.
A ground-rule double down the right-field line started the cascade. After an infield hit, a single to left field was misplayed, allowing a second run to score and the batter to reach second.
A walk brought up the No. 8 man in the Renegades’ lineup, shortstop Kolin Demel, who smashed a high drive to left which got over the fence about 310 feet away to suddenly cut the Chillicothe lead to 12-8.
Ironically, twice in the game, Mudcats infielders launched shots to deep left which threatened to leave the yard, but were caught at the fence, preventing three additional runs.
Demel’s deep shot knocked Young out, but, inheriting still a 4-runs lead, another righthanded Jake – Gernon – seemed to right the ship, retiring the next two men to end the fifth and then fanning the first batter in the Jeff City sixth. However, as with Young, he instantaneously lost his ability to get outs and did not get another.
After getting the first three men he faced, Gernon walked Renegades first baseman Carter Mize, who had already singled twice and been robbed of a third by right fielder Lucas Loos’ diving catch in the fifth.
When the next batter, Hamilton Anderson, won a 7-pitches battle by lifting the ball over the fence down the right-field line, for the second time in as many innings, a walk had been followed by a home run. The Chillicothe lead was down to two.
Gernon then got ahead of the next batter, but hit him with a 1-2 pitcher. One more time, Jefferson City made Chillicothe’s pitcher pay for his generosity when Andrew Paten jacked a ball over the fence down the left-field line and the game was knotted, 12-12.
Then, just as suddenly as the torrent of runs had poured across home plate, two relief hurlers went against the flow and slammed shut the floodgates.
For the home team, that actually happened in the top of the sixth when the Renegades’ fifth pitcher of the contest, Shane Fontenot, entered to start that frame.
He retired the first two batters he faced, allowed Greyson Barrett’s third hit of the night – a single – and then moved through the last 10 Mudcats who stepped into the batter’s box, fanning four along the way.
Meanwhile, after Paten tagged Gernon for the tying 4-bagger, Chillicothe lefthander Joe Shapiro took over on the hill and had a second-straight strong outing.
After the first batter against him in the sixth singled, the southpaw fielded a comebacker for the second out and the next Renegade whiffed.
In the seventh, a strikeout and a pair of fly outs negated a 1-out walk and, in the eighth, only Shapiro’s own error with two outs prevented a 1-2-3 inning.
However, after Fontenot continued his freeze on the Fish sticks, Chillicothe head coach Tyler Hudlow turned the game back over to a righthander, Myles Janson, but the big Brit didn’t have what it took this night.
After catching the first batter looking at strike three, Janson (0-2) gave a walk to the next. While working to Brady Voss, a pitch in the dirt bounced away to advance the runner into scoring position.
The very next delivery was slapped into right field for a basehit. Despite the fact that No. 3 hitter Mize was on deck and right field Loos charged and fielded the ball quickly, Caden Diel was waved home by his third-base coach. As the throw arrived just ahead of the runner, the ball went in and out of catcher Tanner Sears’ mitt as he tried to get the tag put down quickly and Jefferson City’s improbable recovery from a looming blowout loss was complete.
Chillicothe had not done all of the damage in the early innings, but was responsible for most of it.
In the top of the first, Renegades starting left-handed pitcher Dylan Dunbar exited – apparently due to injury – after facing a mere five men, two of which he retired. However, he did surrender a leadoff hit to Zack Stewart, a 2-outs, RBI double to the sizzling Barrett, and a infield hit to Tanner Sears on which the Jeff City third baseman’s wild throw to first allowed Barrett to score and Sears reach second.
Another lefty, Mick Vonfeldt, was summoned to the hill, but was rudely greeted by the Mudcats in the form of consecutive singles by Max Huntley, Blake Falor, and designated hitter Wes Brandsgaard. Huntley and Brandsgaard drove in runs with theirs, making it a 6-hits, 4-runs first half-inning.
Young encountered his own turbulence in the bottom of the first, giving up three hits and two runs within the first five batters before getting the scoring spigot turned off.
Commencing the top of the second with the top of their lineup again, the Mudcats squeezed only one run out of three bases on balls, scoring only when a 2-outs swinging third strike to Huntley eluded the catcher for a passed ball that let Stewart cross the plate.
The home team got that one right back via a 1-out single, an error, a hit batsman, and a Mize 2-outs single.
Following a scoreless third, Chillicothe opened up the throttle again in the fourth and fifth and – deceivingly, it turned out – seemed to take total command.
Barrett started the fourth with a double down the right-field line. After Sears walked, Huntley drove a pitch the other way and over the right fielder’s head for a run-scoring, ground-rule double.
Falor grounded out to third with Sears scoring and Huntley moving up. Following a walk to Brandsgaard, who was two for three and walked twice, a Petey Taylor tap to the first baseman plated Huntley for an 8-3 lead after 3-1/2 innings.
When Young breezed through the bottom of the fourth, the Mudcats quickly knocked out Jefferson City’s third hurler and did further damage against a fourth to balloon its lead to nearly double figures.
With one out, Josh Swinehart doubled off the center field fence and Barrett, already owner of two hits in the game and 18 runs batted in on the season in the first nine games, was given first base intentionally after getting ahead of the count 3-1.
After Swinehart stole third, Sears singled to right to drive him in. When the right fielder’s high throw to third trying to get Barrett going there sailed out of play, another run scored and Sears was awarded third base.
That brought a new pitcher into the game again for the Renegades, but he was greeted by Huntley’s third single of the evening, making it 11-3.
Huntley soon stole second base, where he stayed while the second out was made. A balk moved him to third while Brandsgaard was wangling his second walk and Taylor found the alley in right-center field for a run-scoring double that pushed the Mudcats’ lead to nine.
That, however, proved to be the last hurrah for the visitors’ attack, thanks to Fontenot.
Statistically, Huntley (Kalamazoo, Mich./Western Michigan U.) swung the game’s biggest bat. He went three for five with a double, three runs batted in, and three runs scored.
Joining him in having a 3-hits night was Barrett, whose batting average climbed to a team-best .421 and whose slugging rate rose to exactly twice that (.842).
Chillicothean Brandsgaard’s four times on base in five plate appearances jacked his on-base rate to a team-high .556. His 2-for-3 game elevated his batting average to .368.
Although out-hit by Chillicothe 14-12 and having handed the Mudcats eight walks, compared to the only five issued by the Fish, Jefferson City’s timely hitting and power proved decisive.
Each of the Renegades’ Nos. 2-6 batters stroked two hits. Anderson and Demel paced the run production with three RBI each.
Shapiro’s relief stint (2-1/3 innings, one hit, no runs, one walk) dropped his earned run average to 1.80 in five innings of work thus far. Janson’s, meanwhile, rose to 23.14 and Gernon’s to 21.00, the two highest on the staff.