Rare 1-0 MINK League Pitchers' Duel Leaves Chillicothe Mudcats Defeated Sunday

St. Joseph Mustangs' Will Hahn gets best of Mudcats' Jake Young in league's first 1-0 9-innings game utilizing only two pitchers in 10 years June 20

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Chillicothe Mudcats pitcher Jake Young delivers a pitch to a St. Joseph Mustangs batter during this past Sunday's MINK League baseball game in Chillicothe. Young threw a complete-game 3-hitter, allowing only one run, but wound up with the loss as St. Joseph claimed a rare 1-0 victory.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Something not seen in MINK League baseball in more than 10 years had impeccable timing Sunday.

With the late-afternoon/early evening weather forecast for Chillicothe anticipating the arrival of rain and thunderstorms in the general vicinity of 6 or 7 p.m., the fact that the Chillicothe Mudcats’ home game against chief league rival St. Joseph made a scheduled 5:05 p.m. start a fortuitous coincidence.

However, with the college-level, wood-bat summer baseball league’s normal 9-innings games routinely lasting three hours and more, getting the game started and finished that evening might not have been a good bet.

With historically-dominant performances, right-handed pitchers Jake Young of the Mudcats and Will Hahn of the visiting Mustangs not only made a full game happen, they ended up doing it with more than 90 minutes to spare before strong rain rolled in a bit behind schedule.

In his third start for the local team, Young (Lisle, Ill./Fairmont State U.) delivered one of the finest pitching performances in the Mudcats’ 19-seasons history, a 9-innings, complete-game, 3-hitter.

Hahn, however, proved a shade better in one critical, decisive component.

Although the Fish touched him for four hits, Hahn didn’t let any Chillicothe player past second base, delivering the Ponies a 1-0 triumph in 101 pitches in a game which concluded at “June” Shaffer Memorial Park Stadium at 7:02 p.m., a mere 1:58 after it began.

What made the game and its twin pitching performances historic is that there had not been a MINK League game that ended 1-0 in which both teams’ pitchers had thrown 9-innings complete games in about 10 years and three weeks.

While 1-0 baseball games at any level are generally infrequent, in the MINK League, Sunday’s occurrence was only the 20th 1-0 pitchers’ duel between league opponents dating back to the start of the 2011 season – essentially an average of two per season, although 2017 didn’t see any.

As noted, what the good-sized crowd at toasty Shaffer Park Stadium saw Sunday was even more unique than just any old 1-0 game.

The most recent instance of MINK clubs playing a single-run game with each employing a single hurler had been almost five years ago when Mudcats righthander Zack Leban outdueled a Nevada hurler. However, that game was part of a doubleheader, so each hurler threw only seven innings in going the route.

It turns out the Mudcats also had been involved – and victorious – the last time a MINK League club played a 1-0 9-innings game in which both sides received complete games from their respective hurlers.

On that occasion, it was none other that Chillicothean Colin Parker who fired the gem against the Ozark Generals on June 25, 2011. It was one of the gangly Parker’s seven career victories over parts of four seasons with the Fish, a total which has him tied with three others for second-most career victories in team history behind Caleb Bounds’ 13.

Sunday’s efficient, epic, Young-Hahn battle even eclipsed that June 2011 contest, though, because, with Chillicothe hosting Ozark on that occasion, the Generals’ pitcher only worked eight innings, not nine, for his CG, since the Fish did not need to bat in the bottom of the ninth.

Nearly dating back to the very beginning of when complete league results are available to be researched – the start of the 2011 season, on June 2, 2011 – about three weeks before the Parker/Mudcats triumph, the Nevada Griffons scored a run in the top of the ninth inning of their game at Clarinda, Iowa’s, usually-hitter-friendly Municipal Stadium and defeated the A’s, 1-0.

After Griffons finally had solved Clarinda hurler Gabe Wellmeyer for a sliver of damage in the top of the ninth, winning pitcher Josh Malin finished his own complete-game effort with another zero.

Making that game extra remarkable is that it came in the season’s opening days when pitchers rarely are in condition and pitching shape to throw a full nine innings and coaches tend to be cautious with pushing them too hard too soon.

Sunday’s result slightly quelled the bit of positive energy with which the Mudcats had returned home from a week-long road stint.

Less than 24 hours before at Jefferson City, Koby Linder’s 8-innings, 1-run gem had beaten the host Renegades 4-2, halting a 5-games losing streak for the Fish.

Had the offense – which put together many solid swings against Hahn Sunday, but with nothing much to show for them –been able to scratch out just a couple of runs, it could have headed north Monday to take on the rampaging Clarinda A’s with some renewed momentum.

Given the way the A’s have been playing, the Mudcats likely will need every bit of positive vibe and confidence they can access Monday.

With a 2-1 victory in the nightcap Sunday, Clarinda swept a doubleheader from visiting Nevada, pushing the Iowa team’s winning streak to 10 in a row.

Eight of those have been in league contests and the last nine have occurred on the A’s’ home field. Monday’s meeting with the Mudcats will be a remarkable 10th-straight home game for the league’s oldest member. A rained-out, would-be road game on June 11 has made the stretch of consecutive home appearances on Merl Eberly Field reach double digits, but, even without the rainout, the southern Iowa team was set up for eight straight at home.

With Sunday’s twin wins, the A’s boosted their league record to a North Division- and league-best 11-2; the next-best record is Joplin’s 9-6.

Overall, head coach Ryan Eberly’s Clarinda club is 16-3. No other MINK League team has played more than 15 games.

Chillicothe head coach Tyler Hudlow told the C-T after Sunday’s defeat he remained undecided who he would use as the starting pitcher for the Mudcats at Clarinda.

The most-rested starter is Conner Fletcher, the recent high school graduate from Meadville, but, given his lack of college experience, Hudlow might want to avoid throwing into the fire against the red-hot Iowa team. Fletcher’s thrown decently for four innings each in his two starts, but faded suddenly in the fifth in his second start.

Given the sharpness and endurance with which Linder and Young pitched Saturday and Sunday only three days after their most-recent prior outings, Hudlow might roll the dice with another righty, Mitch Alba.

Alba, who threw in relief at Clarinda in his initial appearance with the Mudcats on June 4 and then worked five creditable innings in his first start only three days later, lasted only two innings – allowing seven runs – in his second start at Joplin last Thursday.

With lefthander Joe Shapiro, who has been quite good since struggling with his control when he also made his season debut at Clarinda June 4, having not appeared in a game since last Monday, the Mudcats coach might try to tag-team Clarinda with a pre-planned use of Alba and Shapiro with the hop of getting seven or eight combined innings from them.

In Sunday’s swift-moving clash in Chillicothe, the only scoring game amid a hairline call by an umpire and then flawless offensive execution by the Mustangs to take advantage of it.

Leading off the sixth inning of the scoreless contest, lefty-swinging St. Joseph leadoff batter Brady Holden got around quickly on a Young offering and ripped a hard 1-hopper down the first-base line.

Landing first about 30 feet in front of the base and about two feet inside the line, the angle of the ball off the bat had it moving toward foul territory all the way and it landed clearly foul by a foot or so about 10 feet beyond the bag.

However, since the ball first had hit the ground in front of the base, that meant its position relative to fair or foul territory as it passed the base in the air was the determinant in whether the ball was in play or just a strike on a foul ball.

Positioned about 30 feet beyond first base on the foul side of the baseline, the field umpire immediately raised both hands, indicating a “foul” ruling, even as some looking right down the baseline from the third-base side of the field had the sense that the ball’s path on the bounce had been over a portion of the base, which would have made it a fair ball and a basehit since it zipped well past Mudcats first baseman Trevor Kardell.

With no notable protest of the call by either the batter or either St. Joseph base coach, Holden got back in the batter’s box and looked for the next pitch.

Once more, he lashed at it and sent it rocketing low toward first base, although this time with a bit more air time.

As the ball descended – again angling toward foul territory – in the vicinity of the base and then landed, the carom surprisingly was rather abruptly back to the left and into fair territory a short distance inside the right-field line.

The ricochet led some to deduce the ball had landed right on first base, but the sudden left-ward angle of its bounce would seem incompatible with the ball having landed on the bag.

Others thought the ball actually had carried just past the base in the air and hit the ground on or very close to the baseline, possibly on the foul side.

If that was true, in contrast to the previous pitch when the ball had first landed before reaching the base, the determining factor in the ball being fair or foul was its first landing spot beyond the base, regardless of its position in the air as it went past the bag.

Whether viewing the ball as either having struck the base or hit on the chalkline behind hit, the field umpire ruled the ball fair. Some observers believed they first saw an indication of a “foul” ruling that then was converted to the “fair” call, but it was the “fair” one which remained in effect.

By the time the ball was tracked down, Holden had hurried into second base with a double, the game’s only extra-base hit, as things played out.

Once play stopped, Hudlow came out and discussed the call with both umpires, either seeking to get the call changed to foul or suggesting that, if a “foul” call was briefly made, it led to his team’s fielders briefly slowing their pursuit of the ball and perhaps missing a chance to either limit Holden to a single or possibly throw him out trying for second. However, predictably, his pleadings did not alter the situation and, given the closeness of the call on the preceding ground ball, having one of the two calls go each way probably served “justice.” 

Mustangs head coach Johnny Coy immediately made the textbook decision to try to focus on getting that one run home, a choice which proved wise, thanks to his players’ execution.

On the first pitch to him, St. Joseph’s Sam Kissane put down a sacrifice bunt toward third base. The Mudcats handled it cleanly, retiring the batter at first, but could do nothing to keep Holden from moving up to third base with one out.

Two pitches later, Jake Grauberger’s right-handed swing launched a high fly ball to deep left field. While Mudcats outfielder Greyson Barrett ranged back to catch it about 25 feet from the fence, Holden strolled home from third after the catch, putting what would be the game’s only run on the “Chuck” Haney Field scoreboard.

One of only five Mustangs to reach base, Holden was the second and last one to get beyond first base. Kissane had singled to start the fourth and reached third via two groundouts before being left there.

Chillicothe likewise put only five batters on base, but never got one past second base.

After a 2-outs error and single in the first frame had a Mudcat at second, a force play ended the inning.

Chillicothe Mudcats infielder Blake Falor is about to pull an eighth-inning pitch from St. Joseph Mustangs hurler Will Hahn past the third baseman and inside the third-base line for a single – his second hit of the day – during this past Sunday's MINK League baseball game in Chillicothe. A wild throw by the left fielder after retrieving the ball allowed Falor to reach second base with two outs, but he was left on as Hahn threw a complete-game shutout in a 1-0 victory.

No other Fish swam past first until an outfielder’s throwing error on Blake Falor’s 2-outs single down the left-field line in the eighth let the batter pick up an extra 90 feet.

That meant a chance to pull even heading into the ninth with another basehit, but Hahn was too tough – or lucky. Although Payton Allen made good contact, his fly ball to left field was caught, leaving Falor on base.

In the bottom of the ninth, for the second time in the game, Mudcat Max Huntley ripped a long drive toward the gap in left-center field, but both balls were just enough toward left that the left fielder caught up to them and pulled them in perhaps 20-30 feet short of the fence.

The St. Joseph shortstop then made a good play toward the hole to get to Greyson Barrett’s grounder and, despite being a bit off-balance, fired a strike across the diamond to get the batter by a stride for the second out.

Hahn then closed with a flourish, getting the last out on a swinging strikeout.

Huntley’s pair of rips to left were not the only ones that easily could have gone for extra-base hits for the Mudcats.

Immediately prior to Falor’s hit – his second of the game – in the eighth, Chillicothean Wes Brandsgaard sizzled a long, deep liner to the opposite field, only to see left fielder Holden angle back and squeeze it about 20 feet short of the wall. Had it gotten down or by, Brandsgaard almost surely would have reached second base and Falor’s subsequent hit would either have sent him (or a pinch runner) to third with one out or scored him with the tying tally.

Statistically, while both pitchers were outstanding from start to finish, neither did his work by overpowering the opposing batters, but rather by leaning on solid fielding behind them. Hahn, who did not walk anyone, recorded only three strikeouts; Young (1-1), who issued three bases on balls, had merely one whiff.

St. Joseph had the only two errors of the game, both of which played key roles in the Mudcats’ two scoring opportunities. However, Mustangs glove work both on the infield and in the outfield took potential Chillicothe hits away.

The vast majority of outs Young got were routine plays for his fielders. Of the few that weren’t, shortstop Allen leaped to take a hit away from Holden in the eighth, first baseman Kardell made a nice pickup of a short-hopping throw from third baseman Zack Cox to begin the ninth, and Cox then ranged far into foul territory near the Chillicothe dugout to snare a low popup for the last out of the ninth.

Catcher Tanner Sears chipped in a 1-out pickoff of a baserunner at first following a leadoff walk in the second inning.

Falor had the contest’s only multi-hits individual performance, pulling grounders into left field in both the sixth and eighth innings. His sixth-inning hit led off the inning, but Hahn sandwiched a fielder’s choice out at second between two fly balls to center field over the next three batters.