Chillicothe (Mo.) Mudcats’ Win Streak Crushed by Clarinda Juggernaut Sunday

Southpaw Spurgeon again silences Mudcats’ bats as host A’s roll on, 6-0

As reported to C-T

CLARINDA, Iowa — The Chillicothe (Mo.) Mudcats’ college-level, wood-bat baseball team began its 2021 season against the Clarinda A’s June 2 naturally with the same number of wins as losses. Sunday night, having culminated a 5-weeks climb back to that status the previous evening, the Mudcats clashed with Clarinda again.

It turned out nothing really had changed over 40 days and nights.

The MINK League-marauding A’s and lefthanded pitcher Steve Spurgeon Jr. replicated their season-opening 6-runs victory over the Fish, halting Chillicothe’s 6-games winning streak in 2:12 with a 6-0 shutout on Eberly Field at Clarinda Municipal Stadium.

Having blanked the Mudcats on one hit over five innings in the June 2 meeting in Chillicothe, only his home hill, the Northeast Colorado College sophomore fired seven innings of blanks Sunday, allowing only two hits as he earned both his second victory over the Fish (11-12, 10-12 MINK) and of the season.

Clarinda (26-4, 21-3 MINK) scored the only run it and Spurgeon would require to prevail on Patrick McGinn’s 2-outs single in the first inning, then posted its other five in the fifth and sixth against fading Chillicothe southpaw Scott Duensing (1-1).

After Spurgeon’s stay on the bump was concluded after 89 mostly-effective pitches, righthander Jonathan Carlos relieved and retired the Mudcats in order the last two innings.

As Sunday turned into Monday, the A’s – the league’s longest-tenured organization – stood a whopping 8-1/2 games ahead of rain-idled second-place St. Joseph in the league’s North Division. Even at that relatively-early point in the league season, the Iowa club had a “magic number” for clinching the division title of only nine. Any combination of nine subsequent A’s victories or St. Joseph losses will mathematically clinch the title and top divisional seeding for the league playoffs.

Although, as a practical matter, it already was a moot point, by slipping back to two games under .500 in league play, Chillicothe’s division-title-race elimination “magic number” shrank to shriveled to eight.

Even with their fourth loss to the A’s in as many meetings and the termination of their July-long winning streak, the Mudcats’ positioning for involvement in the generous MINK League playoffs actually improved Sunday night.

That was because the only team below them in the 4-teams division – first-year league member the Peak Prospects of Des Moines, Iowa – dropped both games of a doubleheader at Sedalia to dip to four full games back of third-place Chillicothe.

If the weather allows, which – for the first few days – it might and the field dries sufficiently, the Mudcats will have a chance between now and next Monday, July 19, to significantly strengthen their grasp on a playoffs berth and potentially pass St. Joseph’s Mustangs for second place simply by prospering at home.

Their schedule had them due to play 10 games – seven of them on “Chuck” Haney Field at “June” Shaffer Memorial Park Stadium – in that 8-days stretch. Four of the 10 will be against the last-place Peak Prospects (evenly split between home and away) and three versus the Mustangs (two at home).

The first two – both on Haney Field – of those 10 were slated to be against St. Joseph Monday and Clarinda Tuesday. Wednesday originally was to have been an open date, but a make-up of the June 26 home rainout against Sedalia now occupies that spot on the calendar.

Sunday’s defeat in southern Iowa was long on pitching, aside from the mid-game stretch when Clarinda got to Chillicothe’s Duensing the third time he went through the red-hot A’s’ lineup.

Midway through the contest – played in very mild (74 degrees), partly sunny, and dry weather while Chillicothe absorbed more precipitation – the hosts had one runs on three first-inning hits and the visitors none on one.

After Spurgeon shrugged off back-to-back 2-outs walks in the top of the fifth with an inning-ending strikeout – the only time all game Chillicothe had two men aboard simultaneously, the A’s took advantage of two Mudcats miscues in the bottom half to grab the game by the throat.

Following the first of No. 9 hitter Isaiah Marquez’s two doubles to open the home fifth, Duensing’s off-line throw to first on a sacrifice bunt could not be caught as it and the batter-runner arrived at the same time and location. The error left runners at the corners with no outs with the heart of the deep Clarinda lineup waiting to step in.

The Chillicothe hurler gamely tried to recover, striking out the tough Travis Welker looking on a 3-2 pitch, but the hosts immediately blocked his escape route.

On the first pitch to him, with the runner at first on the move, Trevor Andrews singled to center field, sending Marquez home and Mason Maners toward third. Maners didn’t have to stop at third, though, as Mudcats center fielder Braedyn Brewer let the bouncing ball get by him. By the time the ball came back to the infield, Maners was stepping on home plate, making it 3-0, and Andrews stood at second base.

Also attacking the first pitch, the next batter – MINK League All-Star and Home Run Derby champion Taylan Mullins-Ohm – hit a bouncer which ticked off the diving third baseman’s glove and past the diving shortstop behind him into short left field. As it rolled to a stop there, Andrews scored without a play.

Minus Duensing’s error, Clarinda would have scored only once in the fifth; even with it, without Brewer’s, the A’s would have picked up only two. However, since they occurred, Chillicothe trailed 4-0 after five. With the way Spurgeon was throwing, that spread looked quite large. The appearance wasn’t deceiving.

Just to be sure, Clarinda tagged Duensing for a 1-out single and then consecutive doubles – Maners’ 2-bagger inside first base driving in two teammates – to push its lead to 6-0 in the sixth.

Maners’ hit ended Duensing’s outing, the statistics of which (six runs allowed, four earned) don’t do justice to the chance he gave his team to either win or be on close terms late.

Tanner Sears, who spends most of his time catching, playing first base, or serving as designated hitter, made his third pitching appearance in relief of the starter. Aided by an inning-ending fly-ball double play, he prevented any further Clarinda scoring in the sixth before posting a hitless, scoreless seventh.

Another right-hander, Koby Linder, set the A’s down in order in the eighth to drop his season earned-run average to 1.50 across a team-most nine appearances.

Statistically, Spurgeon’s Sunday-best hurling gave him 12 scoreless innings against Chillicothe to date this season with only three hits surrendered.

Duensing’s stint saw him reached for nine hits, six of those in his last 1-1/3 innings. He struck out five and both walked and hit only one.

Offensively, Marquez continued to be a thorn in the Mudcats’ tail, going two for four with two doubles and two runs scored. Right in front of him in the No. 8 spot in the Clarinda lineup, Isaac Lopez also was two for four, just as Mullins-Ohm was.

The Mudcats’ measly two hits were Petey Taylor’s drag bunt toward the second baseman leading off the third and Zack Stewart’s line-drive double down the left-field line to open the fifth. Neither of those men budged from the bags their hits earned.

As fits tightly with its overall record, Clarinda’s Sunday win was its 20th in its last 21 contests, all but two of them on its home field. The A’s are a healthy 7-3 on the road, however.