Barrett's Record-tying Rip Nets Chillicothe (Mo.) Mudcats 13-Innings Win in Monday Split
By PAUL STURM, C-T/LCL Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Monday night’s (and very early Tuesday morning’s) MINK League baseball action on “Chuck” Haney Field at “June” Shaffer Memorial Park Stadium proved to be a combination of equal parts consequence and contradiction.
A doubleheader scheduled to make up rained-out 9-innings late-June games with a pair of shorter, 7-innings contests in mid-July turned into nearly six hours of game competition that stretched into a new day and more innings played than were originally due to occur.
The action dominated by the pitching saw the host Chillicothe Mudcats’ 3-2 game-1 win produce the longest-ever stretch of scoreless play (10 innings) from a game’s start and yet end in a team-record, 13th-inning walk-off home run that made a winning hurler out of a Chillicothe position player who had not seen action in nearly two weeks and had not pitched since he was a high schooler in 2019.
Then, the Joplin Outlaws’ 3-1 game two triumph came over a Mudcats lineup comprised nearly-universally of what normally are pitchers.
Even the results were a conundrum of mixed impact, both likely helping to extend the length of the Mudcats’ season while reducing the club’s opportunity to avoid only the second-ever losing season in its nearly-20-years history.
By lopping two games off their schedule with the split, Chillicothe lessened the likelihood that the Peak Prospects of Des Moines, Iowa, will overtake them in the standings and claim the third and final MINK League playoffs North Division berth by maintaining a 4-1/2-games lead over the Iowa team.
However, dividing the contests also meant the Mudcats (15-18, 14-18 MINK) now have fewer chances to reach at least the .500 mark before season’s end.
Monday’s later-than-usual (6:05 p.m., rather than 5:05) start time for the first game of a Mudcats home doubleheader was a prelude to one of the longest contests (in number of innings) the Chillicothe team has ever had.
The would-be 7-innings game first saw, despite some exceptional chances to do so, nary a run scored through 10 innings, the most number of scoreless innings at game’s start ever for a Mudcats outing.
Then, after Joplin broke through with two runs in the top of the 11th, leading to the insertion of starting third baseman Zack Cox as pitcher in seemingly a concession move, the Fish suddenly put together Zack Stewart’s 1-out double, Braedyn Brewer’s triple, and Josh Swinehart’s single in a 3-batters stretch in the bottom of the inning to counterbalance the Outlaws’ pair of runs.
That meant even more “free” baseball.
Cox, a redshirt freshman at Kansas University last school year who confirmed to the C-T between games that he had not pitched since being a high school senior in 2019, followed up his escape from the jam he inherited in the top of the 11th inning with hitless, scoreless frames in the 12th and 13th, as well.
Idle since sustaining a concussion when beaned as a batter in a July 6 game, just as Cox was gathering his thoughts and energy in anticipation of going out to the mound again in a 14th frame, the game ended on one pitch and he owned the winning decision.
With two Mudcats out and no one aboard in the home half of the 13th, a surprising decision by Joplin’s head coach to replace reliever Brett Weimers with third baseman Caden Bressler backfired on the very first delivery from the newly-inserted hurler.
A notorious first-pitch swinger, lefthanded-swinging Mudcats home run and runs batted in leader Greyson Barrett cut the bat loose at the first pitch to exit the right hand of the new Outlaws hurler and connected for his sixth roundtripper of 2021, a virtually-no-doubt blast over Haney Field’s right-field wall that gave Chillicothe a 3-2 triumph.
The lightning bolt that ended the game rained out about four weeks before was doubly-historic for the Mudcats.
It was the second time in 2021 tha team had ended a victory with a long ball – Tanner Sears, who caught all 20 innings played Monday (and until 12:18 a.m. Tuesday), turned the trick in a “home” game played at Trenton June 9. Prior to this year, the Fish had ripped walk-off homers only twice in their history – in 2011 and 2013.
On top of that, Barrett’s bomb – No. 6 on the season in his sixth plate appearance of the contest – was his third-straight game of launching a ball over the wall. That technically made him only the second Mudcat in history to record a home run in three games in succession, joining another lefty-hitting standout, Dominic D’Anna, on that line of the team records book.
However, the current catfish actually did it in three consecutive games, where as D’Anna had a 19-days and multiple-games gap between his second and last homers. The 2008 star homered in games June 6 and 7 before back-to-back rainouts were followed by two scheduled off days. Then, a June 12 contest was knotted at 4-4 after nine innings with D’Anna homerless when rain returned and halted the action.
The suspended game was resumed on June 26 and, as one of the first Chillicothe batters in the 10th, D’Anna connected for another home run – technically in a June 12 game, but not really.
In his first two at-bats of Monday’s nightcap, as one of only two Mudcats position players written into the pitcher-heavy, hodge-podge lineup head coach Tyler Hudlow concocted on the heels of the marathon opener, Barrett came quite close to claiming the consecutive homering games mark all for himself, as well as single-handedly helping the 2021 Mudcats tie the team record of four games in a row with at least one 4-bagger, but his deep fly balls to right were caught and landed for a double, respectively (although Barrett was thrown out trying to stretch the double into a triple to end the third inning.
Infielder Cox gained credit for the pitching triumph by working 2-2/3 hitless innings and retiring seven of the nine Outlaws he faced, even though only 17 of his 30 pitches were strikes. He walked one man and hit another.
He followed a pair of lefthanders to the mound for Chillicothe.
Starter Scott Duensing didn’t have his best stuff, throwing 96 pitches over 5-1/3 innings, but still wiggled off the hook without surrendering any runs.
Reliever Joe Shapiro bailed Duensing out of a jam in the sixth and then tacked on four more shutout frames before consecutive 1-out singles into center field drove home the game’s first two runs in the top of the 11th. That prompted the summoning of Cox.
After the marathon (3:44, 366 pitches) opener, which matched the 2009 Mudcats’ 15-innings victory in the opening round of the National Baseball Congress World Series tournament for the most extra innings (six) played in a single game, runs continued to be at a premium in the finale which commenced at 10:18 p.m. and ended 2:03 later.
With his limited roster of available position players so physically taxed by the tension and tenacity of the first game, Hudlow went to a light-hearted approach for the finale.
Scheduled starting pitcher Mitch Alba answered that bell, even though he’d actually participated in game one for a couple of innings as, first, the designated hitter and then right fielder.
Behind him at every field position except shortstop were fellow pitchers – Logan Snow at first base, Jake Young at second, Myles Janson at third, and Dustin Gipson, Koby Linder, and Cole Mammenga across the outfield from left to right.
Riding the adrenaline wave of his game-ending heroics of the first contest, serving as shortstop for game two was Barrett, heretofore only seen at first base or in the corner outfield spots.
The only Mudcat to handle his “normal” position for the second game had no choice. Despite the extreme length of the first game, catcher Tanner Sears had to labor through the second, as well, since Jaxon Hotta, the team’s only other available catcher since early this month, mildly injured the Achilles’ tendon in one of his legs a few days earlier.
Impressively, the makeshift-to-the-extreme Chillicothe alignment for game two had only one error, an off-line, ill-advised throw to third by Sears on a seventh-inning steal that went past Janson and let the third and final Outlaws run score.
The visitors, themselves still hoping to take at least second place in the MINK League’s South Division standings, again were first to score in the nightcap.
In the top of the third inning, a wild pitch in the dirt on a swinging third strike let the first batter reach safely. Following a popup Barrett ran down in shallow center field while cutting in between three pitcher, back-to-back walks from Alba loaded the bases.
Another wild pitch put the game’s first run on the scoreboard and advanced the two men behind that runner. Following a third-consecutive walk, a fly ball to center field was plenty deep enough to drive in another run.
The Mudcats’ three “normal” position players (Brewer was serving as designated hitter) slotted by Hudlow back-to-back-to-back in the lineup at Nos. 9, 1 and 2 cut the Joplin lead in half in the bottom of the third.
Sears sliced a double into the right-field corer with two outs and Barrett then lofted a drive over the right fielder’s head and just short of the wall. The extra-base hit produced his 31st run batted in of the season, tying him with the Clarinda A’s’ Travis Welker for the league lead.
With Brewer due up next and considering he already had played 15-plus innings, Barrett might have been better advised to settle for a double, but the play at third was relatively close, even though the call was “out.”
Chillicothe got a couple of men on with one out the next inning as Snow reached on a third-strike wild pitch and Young dribbled a hit through the right side. However, two of the team’s 16 strikeouts in the game followed.
Although Linder singled on the infield in the fifth and Snow coaxed a walk in the sixth, Joplin pitchers preserved the 1-run lead until the seventh.
After his errant peg let a third Outlaws run in in the top of the seventh, power threat Sears stepped into the batter’s box representing the tying run in the bottom half, only to see his long fly ball to center field come up well short of the fence, ending the game and the night.