Chillicothe Mudcats Clinch League Playoffs Berth as Barrett Breaks Two Team Homers Records
(Updated with corrected records references 1 a.m., July 24) Wacky 18-13 MINK League win for Mudcats has nearly 90-minutes delay after one pitch
BOONE, Iowa — On an otherwise baffling night of faulty game operations that left many spending most of the late afternoon and evening hours wondering what was going on and what might happen next, Chillicothe Mudcat Greyson Barrett remained clear-sighted and highly-focused.
With the Mudcats having traveled about four hours to central Iowa and remote Boone to play a scheduled MINK League doubleheader with the Peak Prospects, a first-year member of the league, and needing only one victory in the final few days of the 2021 regular season to clinch a league-playoffs berth and eliminate the Iowa team from the playoffs chase, Barrett broke two team records for power hitting, tied another, and tied one for run production to propel Chillicothe to an 18-13 first-game victory that assured the Mudcats’ participation in at least the first round of next week’s 3-tiered league postseason action.
Barrett ripped home runs in his last three at-bats, giving him 10 homers in his first season with the organization and seven runs batted in for the contest.
The home runs total surpasses the previous, long-standing Mudcats’ single-season and career records, set by 2003 infielder/DH Jason Clark and equaled in 2011 by outfielder/DH Zach Esquerra.
His third circuit clout of the evening put him alongside Jack Grace (2019), Esquerra (2011) and Travis Dunlap (2003) as the only Mudcats ever to have three in a game.
The Bakersfield, Calif., first baseman/outfielder’s seven RBI in Thursday’s first game also matched the team’s single-game mark first established in 2003 by the late Steve Martin and equaled by Michael Klein in 2014.
Barrett, who blazed out of the starting gate as a runs producer with 18 in the season’s first nine games and finally has rediscovered his stroke after a deep midseason slump, spiked his RBI total to a league-best 42. That is tied (with 2017 Fish Justin Blasinski) for the second-highest single-season total in Mudcats history and only three shy of Dunlap’s 2003 record.
After not driving in any runs in Friday’s home-finale loss to Clarinda, Iowa, Barrett has at least two games remaining in which to try to catch or pass Dunlap’s 45.
Beyond Barrett’s individual excellence, the 31 combined runs scored by the teams in merely seven innings is the second-largest total for a game in the Mudcats’ 19-years history, behind only a 19-13 loss to Clarinda, Iowa, in 2017.
Even after Chillicothe clinched its playoffs berth and ended the Peak Prospects’, there was more confusion and uncertainty as to the ramifications of the evening which, as of the time of this story’s original posting overnight, remained unclarified.
Because the St. Joseph Mustangs’ dropped two decisions – the first in the completion of a previous suspended contest and the second the regularly-scheduled contest – to Clarinda Thursday evening, the Mudcats cut in half the 3-games margin by which they trailed the Ponies prior to those games and regenerated hope of catching and passing St. Joe for second place in the final North Division standings. The second-place team will host the third-place squad in the first round of the playoffs next week.
That meant the scheduled second game of the Chillicothe-Peak Prospects double-dip had practical importance, but it was not played, in part because of the issue which triggered the confusing and confounding night right at its start.
The first game was slated for a 5:00 p.m. start, but, with the Mudcats facing the long, long trip home at play’s end, it was nearly 10 minutes past when the first pitch was thrown.
As it turned out, that was the only pitch thrown for a long time.
Mudcats general manager Doug Doughty confirmed the game broadcast report that there was only one umpire present at the original game time, begging the questions why any action was even started and why it was immediately halted.
Regardless of what the answers – if there were any – to those queries, with both teams’ starting pitchers having gone through the pre-game warmup routines, the field was cleared after Jake Merithew’s fouled-off delivery to Chillicothe leadoff hitter Payton Allen.
The stoppage – presumably connected to a search for a second umpire who’d agree to work the game and then arrive at the relatively-remote location – went on for more than 75 minutes before a second arbiter arrived and the game resumed just before 6:30 p.m.
According to Doughty, it was not the first time for such a situation to arise at a July Peak Prospects home doubleheader.
Given the greatly-delayed start to the first game and its plethora of runs, it did not conclude until nearly 9:30 p.m.
Then, within minutes of its end, it was announced there would not be a second game played.
That created a new level of intrigue and uncertainty since, by then, it was clear that St. Joseph might lose a second time and the Mudcats’ chances of overtaking it had been resuscitated, particularly if they could pick up a second win on the night.
At issue was whether the league would rule the game as simply canceled, if, for instance, the fill-in umpire from the first game could not stay to help officiate the late, late second game, or if either the Peak Prospects or Mudcats had chosen to forfeit the game.
At approximately 12:30 a.m. Friday morning, after having been in contact with the league president and the league commissioner, Doughty shared this statement: “The league is in the process of reviewing the approximately one hour and thirty minute delay to start game one, plus the circumstances that led to the cancellation of game two.”
If, ultimately, the unplayed game is ruled to be a Peak Prospects forfeit, Chillicothe (16-19) would be within a game of St. Joseph (17-18) with each having no more than three games left.
As a practical matter, while the race would be tight, the fact that St. Joseph’s three remaining games are due to be against the lowly Des Moines-based team and the Mudcats’ against the runaway North Division champion Clarinda club makes it unlikely Chillicothe actually would pass the defending league champions for second spot and the right to host their playoffs meeting scheduled for Monday.
While nowhere near as befuddling – farcical might not be too strong a word – as the non-game-play aspects of Thursday evening at Boone were, the game competition had more than enough ups and downs and circuitous routes to its ending.
With Chillicothe still strapped by both a shortage of position players and pitchers in the face of its continuing heavy slate of late-season games (owing to multiple late-June rainouts), head coach Tyler Hudlow once more had to utilize pitcher Mitch Alba as his team’s designated hitter while running righthander Cole Mammenga – used exclusively in relief the first month-plus of the season until arms available for non-weekend games ran short – out to the bump for a second start.
With infielder Blake Falor having been felled by injury early in the previous night’s game, infielder/outfielder Petey Taylor also continuing to nurse an injury to a hand, and infielder/outfielder Lucas Loos not yet returned from an extended recruiting visit to a Florida college, the Mudcats had every available position player in the lineup and still needed Alba as a supplement.
Following a scoreless first inning, the visiting Fish swam free to the tune of five runs in the top of the second, two of them unearned in what would become a recurring pattern.
An inning-starting error, a walk, and Zack Cox’s single put the first of the 31 runs on the scoreboard. After another walk – to Jaxon Hotta – loaded the bases with no outs, leadoff batter Payton Allen followed Alba’s strikeout with a bases-clearing double up the right-center field alley. With two away, Josh Swinehart singled Allen home for a 5-0 lead before Barrett ended the inning by popping up. It was the last time all night the Iowa club would keep Barrett in the yard.
For a bit, it seemed the big inning might discourage the lagging Peak Prospects and they’d roll over and submit, but that didn’t happen.
In the bottom of the third, they raked Mammenga for six hits and five runs – all earned – to pull back even, but only very briefly.
With one out in the top of the fourth, another infield error opened the door and Barrett made the hosts play.
With two outs, back-to-back walks brought the lefty hitter from Texas Wesleyan U. to the dish in the 5-5 game.
Owner of three home runs in the previous five Mudcats games, he seemed to have squandered his opportunity to restore his team to the lead when he lofted a high pop foul to the first-base side of home plate. However, the Peak Prospects catcher had the ball squirt out of his mitt on the catch attempt, evening the count at 1-1, rather than ending the inning.
Three Jake Merithew deliveries later, on 2-2, Barrett again launched a high pop fly to the first-base side, this time farther down the line and more toward the out-of-play area. While the home team’s first baseman made an effort to reach over the restraining fence to snag it, the ball landed tantalizingly just beyond his reach for simply another foul ball.
Barrett made sure no one had a chance to catch the ball on his next swing, launching a deep fly to right field that carried over the fence for a grand slam, the Mudcats’ first “salami” in 10 years, dating back to Zach Esquerra’s walk-off slam to beat St. Joseph on June 22, 2011.
When Tanner Sears, Zack Stewart, and Cox followed Barrett’s seventh home run of the season with singles, the Mudcats had produced the game’s third 5-runs frame and again led by five, 10-5.
Mammenga again could not handle the prosperity, this time giving up two walks to begin the home fourth and later a single and double as the Prospects posted three runs to get right back in it, 10-8.
In the top of the fifth, Chillicothe matched that 3-spot, again with help from the Iowans’ infield defense. After a 1-out walk to Allen by Peak Prospects relief pitcher Cody Wolfe, a pair of wild pitches had him at third when Swinehart’s 2-outs bouncer to third drew a wild throw that led Allen score.
Four pitches later, Swinehart scored, too, at a trot and ahead of Barrett, who launched his second-straight roundtripper with a line drive over the fence down the right-field line for a 13-8 lead.
Even though again down by five runs, the Prospects put up a protest.
They opened their fifth with a hit by pitch, single, and walk, causing Hudlow and pitching coach Pablo Ortiz to lift right-hander Mammenga (1-1) in favor of lefthander Joe Shapiro, he of the 1.19 earned-run average.
While he allowed all three inherited runners to score on a walk, a hit, and a forceout, he finally stopped the bleeding with the Chillicothe lead at a scanty 13-11 after five innings of the 7-innings contest.
Even though Barrett didn’t bat in the sixth, Cox’s third of four hits – a double – was key to a 2-runs inning.
With Cox at second and Stewart at third with one out, fill-in DH Alba grounded a ball in the hole at shortstop for a hit and run batted in. On the play, the host’s shortstop tried to get Cox moving to third, but threw wildly, letting Cox score, as well, for a 15-11 margin.
After Shapiro worked a quick 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth inning, Barrett was first up for the visitors in the seventh.
Facing Bryce Hall, normally an outfielder who had begun Thursday’s game as his team’s designated hitter and then came in to pitch to start the sixth, Barrett tomahawked the first pitch he saw over the fence in right-center field.
Barrett’s seventh-inning-starting 4-bagger was followed by a double by Sears and Stewart’s run-scoring triple. Stewart then made it 18-11 on a wild pitch.
Although touched for a couple of runs, righthander Myles Janson got through the bottom of the seventh to end the Mudcats’ latest marathon game.
Statistically, aside from Barrett’s historic evening, Cox, in only his fourth game back from a concussion absence, went four for five with two runs driven in and two scored.
Allen had three RBI from his second-inning hit, while Stewart was two for three plus two walks with three runs scored and one knocked in. Sears had two hits and three runs scored and Swinehart went two for four with a walk, two runs scored, and one driven in. He’s now third in the league in RBI with 31.
Even Alba got his licks in, finishing two for five with a run batted in. The Eastern Illinois freshman of last school year, where he was a teammate of 2019 Mudcats star Logan Eickhoff, had a .287 batting average in 14 at-bats following Thursday’s play.
Chillicothe out-hit the Peak Prospects 16-12 with nearly half (seven) of the Fish hits being for extra bases. The Iowa team clubbed a handful of doubles.
Kyle Berg went three for five with three runs driven in and two scored for the Iowa team, while Hall knocked in four while going two for four with two runs scored. Patrick Norton had two run-scoring doubles, as well.
Interesting, the bottom two men in the Peak Prospects lineup each drew three walks. No. 8 batter Gabe Followell got aboard in all four plate appearances, getting a single in his only official at-bat. He scored all four times.
Defensively, Chillicothe played errorlessly, while the Iowans had four miscues leading to 11 unearned runs.