Mudcats' Barrett MINK League POW again to end 2021
Late, record-breaking power surge earns honor; St. Joseph takes title
By PAUL STURM, C-T/LCL Sports Editor
For what is believed to be the only time in team history during the relatively-brief time frame in which such a recognition has existed, a Chillicothe Mudcat has been honored with the MINK League’s “player of the week” award a second time in the same season.
2021 Mudcats first baseman/outfielder Greyson Barrett, who copped the college-level, wood-bat baseball league’s POW honor for the first “week” of this year’s season with a blazing start which featured power, run production, and high-average hitting, bookended that with a power-packed finish to the regular season which gained him “player of the week” recognition again for the last week of play.
Although his charge to the finish line actually began the last couple of nights of the preceding week when he hit home runs and drove in a combined five runs in July 17-18 victories over the Peak Prospects of Des Moines (Iowa) and eventual league champion St. Joseph, the hard-swinging, left-handed hitter from Bakersfield, Calif., and Texas Wesleyan University helped generate runs steadily through the final week (July 19-25), including one record-shattering eruption late in the week.
In an odd way, Barrett’s surge might have been facilitated by an umpire’s decision the player didn’t feel was warranted.
In the first inning of a July 15 home game against the Peak Prospects, the Californian was called out on strikes to end the first inning, a pitch-location ruling with which he disagreed. However, as he walked toward the Mudcats’ dugout – seemingly letting off steam without turning to look at the umpire he was walking away from, the umpire, rather than moving out of earshot to neutralize the situation, had taken several steps to follow Barrett. Hearing something he objected to, the arbiter ejected the player.
Unable to remain in the dugout, Barrett observed part of the rest of the game from the press box, a different perspective which might have allowed him to see and analyze teammates’ and opponents’ approach to at-bats from an angle he normally would not get to do.
Whether that different perspective clued him in to a slightly-different physical or mental approach to his own at-bats from then on is uncertain, but, having emerged from a deep, 3-weeks slump 10 days earlier, the change in results was dramatic and undeniable.
The following night, after sitting out the first-game loss in a road doubleheader against the Peak Prospects, Barrett ripped a solo home run in his first at-bat and added two runs batted in later as the Fish earned a split of the twinbill.
Back at home the next night, he again used his first at-bat to pound a ball over the wall in right field, a 2-runs shot which helped pace a 4-2 victory over St. Joseph, which Chillicothe still had a chance to overtake for second place in the league’s North Division standings.
That moved the Mudcats into the final week of the regular season, which began with a make-up home doubleheader against the Joplin Outlaws.
Although scheduled for only seven innings, the first game of that twinbill was scoreless through 10 innings before each side plated two runs in the 11th.
After a scoreless 12th and top of the 13th, the Mudcats had the bases empty and two outs in their 13th when, with Joplin surprisingly having just made a pitching change, Barrett attacked the new pitcher’s first delivery and launched it over the right field wall for a walk-off home run, capping the nearly-4-hours contest.
Not only was it only the fourth game-ending blast in the Mudcats’ 19-seasons history, but it made Barrett only the second Chillicothe player ever to hit home runs in, technically, three successive games and the first to do so in three chronologically-success games.
In 2008, Dominic D’Anna had homers in back-to-back early-June games, then, after a couple of scheduled off days and a rainout or two, five days later was in a tied game which weather prevented being played to a conclusion. Because of that, the game was suspended during the 10th inning, not to be resumed for a couple of weeks. When it was, D’Anna hit a home run in that 10th inning to ignite a winning rally, technically making it a third-consecutive game in which he’d “gone deep,” even though that blast came nearly three weeks after the first two.
In Barrett’s case, however, it was home runs on 3-consecutive days and in 3-consecutive games.
Although that streak ended in the late second game that night – he did hit a couple of walls well, but short of the distant fences at “Chuck” Haney Field in “June” Shaffer Memorial Park Stadium, Barrett did tack on another run batted in as the Mudcats lost, 3-1.
An evening later at St. Joseph, he delivered another run batted in as the Fish tried to rally from a 5-0 deficit during a 3-runs eighth inning, but a 5-3 loss effectively clinched second place in the division for the Mustangs.
That set the scene for Barrett to have one of the greatest hitting games – arguably the greatest – in team history the next night at Boone, Iowa, in another doubleheader against the Peak Prospects.
In a game delayed for virtually 90 minutes after one pitch was thrown because only one umpire showed up, Barrett was retired in his first two at-bats before, in a 5-5 game, he yanked a grand slam home run over the right-field fence in the top of the fourth inning, providing a lead the team would not surrender as it mathematically clinched the division’s third and final playoffs berth.
Playing a major role in protecting the lead he’d created, Barrett ripped another 4-bagger – this one a 2-runs blast – off a relief pitcher in the fifth inning, tying both the team’s single-season and career records for home runs – set at nine in 2003 by Jason Clark and tied in 2011 by Zach Esquerra.
As the game moved into the seventh and final scheduled inning with the Chillicothe lead a still-vulnerable 15-11, the Mudcats outfielder faced a third different pitcher and victimized him as well for a record-breaking clout.
A shot to right-center field cleared the fence at the somewhat-undersized field for Barrett’s third home run of the game and records-shattering 10th of the year and his Mudcats career.
The 3-homers game made him only the fourth Fish ever to do that, joining Travis Dunlap (2003), Esquerra, and Jack Grace (2019).
Additionally, the RBI from his solo shot gave him seven runs driven in, matching the team record set by the late Steve Martin in 2003 and tied by Michael Klein in 2014.
The stretch of power and production – six home runs and 15 RBI in a 6-days, 6-games stretch – catapulted Barrett back into the league leads for home runs and runs batted in, both of which positions he maintained at season’s end (post-playoffs).
The run-production push also reinvigorated his early-season threat to the Chillicothe single-season record for RBI, which Dunlap established at 45 in 2003. With his seven on July 22, with at least two regular-season games and one playoff game remaining, Barrett stood only three shy of that mark, too.
However, he went hitless with no RBI the next night at home before driving in two runs in the July 24 regular-season finale at Clarinda, Iowa, leaving Barrett one away from equaling the record.
However, he’d missed a couple of RBI chances in the interim and couldn’t convert any in the playoffs loss at St. Joseph, leaving him at No. 2 all-time with 44, displacing Justin Blasinski (42 in 2017) from the runnerup spot behind Dunlap.
As it related to the MINK League’s final regular-season “player of the week” honor, Barrett had compiled a largely-irrefutable case for it with four home runs, 12 RBI, a hefty .875 slugging rate, a .333 batting average, and a soaring 1.260 OPS (on-base plus slugging rate) during the last seven days of the regular season.
Not only did St. Joseph hold off Chillicothe’s late attempt to overtake it for second place in the final North standings – both far, far behind division leader Clarinda, but it used 3-straight comebacks to fuel a perfect 4-0 postseason which netted the Ponies their seventh MINK League crown and second in a row (there was no 2020 season, due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
In the first round against Chillicothe, the Mustangs erased a 3-1 deficit with two runs in the seventh inning and then scored twice in the bottom of the eighth, as well, to rally past the Mudcats 5-3.
The next night at Clarinda, St. Joseph kept its wits about it during a 7-runs bottom of the first inning by the powerhouse A’s.
Although their offense was dormant, the Mustangs kept the deficit at seven runs through six innings before suddenly turning the tables. Two runs in the seventh and three in the eighth tightened things and another 3-spot in the top of the ninth allowed the defending champs to stun the host Iowa club and advance to the best-of-3 league championship series with an 8-7 upset of undeniably the league’s premier 2021 squad.
In the title series against Sedalia, St. Joseph led the opener at Sedalia 2-1 in the seventh inning when the Bombers shelled the Mustangs for six runs to take a 7-2 lead.
It still was 7-2 going to the ninth, but not all of the good luck had been emptied out of the Ponies’ horseshoe yet.
They galloped closer and closer and finally caught and passed Sedalia with a 7-runs rush in the top of the ninth before, as they had the night before at Clarinda, blanking the stunned foe in the bottom of the ninth for a near-miraculous 9-7 triumph.
Not too surprisingly, the series’ second game two nights later at St. Joseph proved anti-climactic. Riding the crest of their wave of good fortune and stalwart resolve, the Mustangs routed Sedalia 12-2 in only seven innings, closing the league’s ’21 season with a championship celebration on their home field.