Chillicothe Mudcats Gunned Down 16-6 in Seven by Joplin Outlaws in MINK League Baseball Thursday

Fourth-straight loss for Fish June 17 marked by 4-for-4, 7-RBI game by previously 1-for-14 Joplin ccatcher

As reported to C-T

JOPLIN, Mo. — A troubling early-season shortage of effective relief pitching by the Chillicothe Mudcats reared its head again Thursday night in an abbreviated loss to the host Joplin Outlaws.

Posting runs in all except one inning, the Outlaws gunned down the Mudcats 16-6 in seven innings, the run which put the 10-runs-lead rule into effect coming off an emergency hurler who hit both batters he faced.

Chillicothe’s third loss in as many outings in their current stretch of 5-consecutive contests away from home and fourth setback in succession dropped its records to 3-7 in the MINK League and 4-7 overall.

Head coach Tyler Hudlow reports he’ll try to get the ship righted behind the hurling of righthander Logan Snow Friday night at Joplin (5-4, 5-4 MINK). The 7 p.m. contest will be Snow’s third start, the second of which produced 5-plus innings of no-hit ball and a win last weekend against Nevada.

Through the Mudcats’ first 11 games, four pitchers who have thrown exclusively out of the bullpen – essentially more than half of the non-starters – all had earned-run averages of more than eight runs per nine innings across 12 combined appearances.

With 36 earned runs allowed in 16-1/3 innings through Thursday’s game, their composite ERA was 19.84 and their combined WHIP ratio (walks, hits and hit batsmen to innings pitched) – the number of baserunners they average allowing every inning – was 3.3.

Given that one of the team’s three generally-effective relievers thus far, Koby Linder, had thrown six shutout innings – in vain, it turned out – the night before, Hudlow had nowhere to turn to try to keep Joplin within reach after the Outlaws jumped Thursday starter Mitch Alba for seven runs on six hits and four walks in the first two innings.

Whereas the Mudcats have had a couple of games get away from them – and nearly a third – after grabbing sizable early leads, they have not received any shutdown – or even slowdown – middle relief which has permitted the offense to stage the type of late-inning comebacks they have been victimized by.

The only late comeback victory they’ve had – over Sedalia at Trenton June 9 – was necessitated by one of the previously-cited four relievers turning a 4-4 game into a 7-4 deficit in a single inning. He was rescued from a would-be loss when the offensive plated six consecutive runs in the bottom of the eighth and ninth to claim a 10-9 victory.

Thursday’s truncated trouncing at Joplin actually saw Chillicothe jump ahead by multiple runs in the top of the first inning, just as they had in the prior night’s defense-doomed 12-innings loss at Sedalia.

With two outs and none on in the first, Josh Swinehart waited out a walk, then stole second base, drawing a bad throw that sent him on an extra 90 feet. That allowed Greyson Barrett’s single to be worth his league-high 19th run batted in of the season.

The Fish hitters didn’t stop there.

Zack Cox – back in the middle of the lineup after a 2-hits game at Sedalia, but still entering with only a .172 batting average on the season – was struck by a pitch to push Barrett into scoring position.

Chillicothe’s own Wes Brandsgaard, who started the contest with a .368 batting average and a team-best (by a healthy margin) .556 on-base rate, then singled Barrett in to give batterymate Alba a bit of elbow room to start his night’s work.

The sophomore-to-be righthander from Eastern Illinois University, who began the night with a 7.50 ERA and nine hits and 16 baserunners allowed in only six innings over two outings (one start), once more proved ineffective.

Allowing 10 Outlaws to parade to the plate in the bottom of the first, he surrendered five runs – all earned – on four hits, two walks, and a hit batter – to put the offense under the Outlaws’ gun.

When the batters came up scoreless in the second and third, two more runs off Alba in the second and one against Jake Gernon in the third left the Fish in a 8-3 hole.

Whether, given the Mudcats’ bullpen woes, it really would have made a difference, the visitors’ best chance for a big inning that could have drawn them close with still more than half a game to play was diminished by one pivotal play in the top of the fourth.

Consecutive walks to the Nos. 8 and 9 men in the Chillicothe lineup by Joplin left-handed relief pitcher Cale McCallister were followed by leadoff man Payton Allen being hit by a pitch. With no outs, the guests had the bases loaded with three of their hottest, most-potent batters lined up to do damage.

When the first three pitches to Max Huntley, who was seven for his last 11 with five RBI, missed the strike zone, not only getting back close, but possibly taking the lead, was in the Mudcats’ mind.

However, after a called strike kept Huntley at the plate, he bounced the 3-1 offering up the middle for a tailor-made 4-3 double play. Even though Lucas Loos scored on the play, the Mudcats’ momentum had wilted.

Even a throwing error on a subsequent ground ball that should have ended the inning, but instead let Zack Stewart tally Chillicothe’s fourth run of the game, couldn’t breathe new life into the inning.

A very good fielding play up the middle and jump throw from the Joplin second baseman retired Barrett ended the inning with the hosts still up 8-4. When the hosts then trumped those two Mudcats markers with three, including two on catcher Calen Protaskey’s 2-runs, opposite-field homer to right-center, the handwriting was pretty clearly on the wall.

After a 4-runs Joplin fifth made it 15-4, the Mudcats made a bid to stave off the “runs-rule” loss by turning a Stewart leadoff single and Allen double in the sixth into runs on sacrifice flies by Huntley and Swinehart.

However, with a 9-runs advantage going to the bottom of the seventh against fill-in reliever Jake Young, who Hudlow had started twice in three previous appearances and who had worked a 1-2-3 sixth, the home team pulled the plug without making an out.

After a walk and a double put the game-ending run at third, Hudlow inserted middle infielder Petey Taylor on the mound, presumably to save any further wear and tear on Young’s right arm.

The first pitch Taylor tried hit the batter, loading the bases, and, after the first delivery to Protaskey missed the zone, the second one plunked him, as well, forcing home the run which made it 16-6.

Statistically, the night belonged to the last batter. Protaskey, who had been only one for 14 on the season entering the contest, finished four for four plus the hit-by-pitch and he drove in seven runs. In addition to the final ribbie and the home run, he singled in two runs in the opening inning from his No. 8 spot in the lineup and also had another 2-RBI single in he fifth inning.

He and No. 9 batter Jeb Jenkins finished a combined seven for eight with nine RBI, while left fielder Ethan Ellis went two for three with two RBI and four runs scored.

All told, six Outlaws had multi-hits nights as Joplin ripped five Mudcats hurlers for a total of 17 safeties.

The Mudcats were limited to six hits – from six separate players – by a trio of Joplin pitchers with McCallister earning the win, even though he allowed four runs – three earned – in his three innings.

Joplin starter Steen Lane was more effective, fanning five and allowing only two runs on two hits in three innings, but he didn’t go far enough to technically qualify for the decision.

By going one for two plus being hit by a pitch in three plate appearances, Brandsgaard hiked his team-best OBP to .567 and his batting average to .381, only .002 behind MINK League “player of the week” Barrett’s team-topping mark.

Despite his successes, the lefty-swinging Chillicothean is only 10th among the 15 primarily position players in number of plate appearances.

He was slotted eighth in the batting order in his first five starts before being up to fifth and sixth his last two games. Meanwhile, a couple of players used more often and routinely in the top five or six in the order have spent most of the season with sub-.200 batting averages, where they stood following Thursday’s defeat.