Six Chillicothe Mudcats Tabbed for July 8 MINK League All-Star Game
Jefferson City host site; Fish send four position players, two pitchers
By PAUL STURM, C-T/LCL Sports Editor
JEFFERSON CITY — Ernie Vivion Field, home of the league’s Jefferson City Renegades, will be the site of this Thursday’s (July 8) MINK League All-Star Game and Home Run Derby. Six Chillicothe Mudcats were selected last weekend for the playing roster for the game and a seventh will be the team’s representative in the long-ball-hitting prelude feature.
Chosen from the Mudcats for the 28-members North Division squad for the 7 p.m. contest were outfielders Josh Swinehart and Braedyn Brewer, infielder/outfielder Max Huntley, catcher Tanner Sears, and pitchers Koby Linder and Scott Duensing.
Had he not chosen to discontinue his playing career about 10 days ago, Chillicothean Wes Brandsgaard would have been a strong candidate for inclusion on the ASG roster with his team-best .345 batting average and .525 on-base rate which would rank him second in the league, were he still active.
The North team also includes, surprisingly, only seven members of the runaway league leaders, the Clarinda (Iowa) A’s. Second-place St. Joseph, on the other hand, has 10 picks. The Peak Prospects team from Des Moines, Iowa, a first-year member of the league, has six.
The Chillicothe nominee for the Home Run Derby is first baseman Greyson Barrett.
Of the half-dozen Fish tabbed as 2021 MINK League All-Stars, the two moundsmen own the best credentials to date.
As of July 4, right-hander Linder (Green Castle, Mo./North Central Missouri College) possessed a 2-1 won-lost record with a 1.03 earned-run average. He had 24 strikeouts and 10 walks and opposing batters were hitting only .200 off him across six appearances and 26 innings, both team-highs. He threw a complete game in his only start.
Left-hander Duensing (Overland Park, Kan./Missouri Southern State U.), a second-year Mudcat, improved throughout his four starts the first month of the season. He registered his first decision – a win – his last time out when he limited St. Joseph to two runs in seven innings in a 6-2 home triumph.
Statistically, Duensing has a 2.14 ERA, 28 strikeouts, seven walks, and an opponents’ batting average of .198 through 21 innings.
Among the Chillicothe position players, Sears and Brewer shared the team lead in batting average at .333, with Huntley third at .322 and Swinehart fourth at .315.
Swinehart (Kalamazoo, Mich./Western Michigan U.) started the season well with five multi-hits games in the team’s first nine outings, good for a .395 batting average and .521 “slug.”
Included in that stretch were a 4-hits game against Nevada and a team-record-setting 2-home-runs game against Springfield’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes Queen City Crush, making him the first Mudcat ever to hit two home runs over the fence in a single game at Chillicothe’s “June” Shaffer Memorial Park Stadium.
However, in his past six games, he’s batted only .125, although he did have back-to-back 2-RBI games against St. Joseph last week.
Swinehart’s three home runs and 16 runs driven in are second to Barrett and he leads the club with 14 walks drawn, helping him have a .444 on-base rate. He tops the Mudcats with both a .519 slugging rate and .963 OPS (on-base plus slugging) rate and is, far and away, the club leader in stolen bases with 11 in 13 tries.
Sears (Higginsville, Mo./North Central Missouri College/Central Methodist U.), who provided one of the first month’s most-dramatic moments with his walkoff solo home that ended the June 9 “home” win over Sedalia at Trenton, has cooled some after a very good start.
Sharing the catching duties with Brandsgaard and Jaxon Hotta, but playing first base a number of times when not behind the plate, his 18 hits are third on the team behind Huntley and Barrett, but, after early success in run production, he sits at only eight runs batted in, despite constantly occupying a spot in the heart of the lineup.
Brewer (Overland Park, Kan./NCMC) missed about 2-1/2 weeks last month with a leg muscle strain, limiting his “counting-numbers” statistics. His 16 hits include a team-most two triples and three doubles and he had 11 runs scored. His slugging rate is a very solid .500.
Huntley, only recently relocated to the outfield on an everyday basis after playing most of June as an infielder, is tied with Barrett for the Mudcats’ lead in hits (19) and has the second-most at-bats (59). Having batted in the middle-third of the lineup quite often, his 12 runs batted in are third-most on the team.
Recently installed in the leadoff spot in the batting order, his on-base rate is a pedestrian .355, considering his batting average. That’s due to him coaxing only three walks and not having been hit by a pitch in 62 plate appearances.
As noted previously, Chillicothe Derby participant Barrett actually is the team leader in hits (19, tied with Huntley) and home runs (four). He also leads not only the Fish, but the entire league in runs batted in with 21.
However, virtually all of that production came in the first two weeks of the season. Trapped in a huge slump the past 2-3 weeks while staying cemented in the No. 3 or 4 spot in the everyday lineup, he is hitless in his last 25 at-bats, has only one hit in his last 32 at-bats, and is three for his last 39.
That has trap-doored his batting average down to only .247, a figure which obviously worked against him in the All-Star selection process. His 20 strikeouts also are the Mudcats’ most.
This year’s Home Run Derby figures to have more favorable conditions for the participants, given Vivion Field’s rather-cozy dimensions all the way around the field – even to straightaway center field. Most of the five prior All-Star Games and Derbies have been held in St. Joseph or Chillicothe, both with mostly-longer distances to the fences. Only the one played at Joplin’s Joe Becker Stadium in 2018 would rate as occurring in a “hitter’s park.”
The Mudcats have had one player claim the Home Run Derby championship – lanky, lefthanded-hitting third baseman Nick Banman doing so at St. Joseph’s Phil Welch Stadium in 2016.