Chillicothe (Mo.) BB Mudcats Slog Through Lackluster Home Finale, Lose 14-3 in Seven to A's
Defeat by division champ Friday officially ends Mudcats' pursuit of second place in MINK League North
By PAUL STURM, C-T/LCL Sports Editor
Although different recent strategies might have made it a viable option, the Chillicothe Mudcats’ purported pursuit of second place in the final 2021 MINK League North Division standings mathematically vanished Friday night.
With another patchwork lineup and an effort focused on personal pursuits, rather than all-out team achievement, he Mudcats again proved to be no match for the steamroller that is this summer’s Clarinda (Iowa) A’s club, losing in seven innings by the 10-runs rule, 14-3.
When paired with two expected St. Joseph Mustangs victories over the Peak Prospects of Des Moines, Iowa, Chillicothe’s defeat meant St. Joseph mathematically sewed up the second-place spot in the final North standings. That means the Mustangs will host the Mudcats (weather permitting) in the single-game, first-round playoffs action Monday (July 26), presumably at 7 p.m. at Phil Welch Stadium.
That’s the same site where the eventual 2019 league champions massacred the Mudcats in the North playoffs final.
Prior to Monday’s do-or-die playoffs opener, Chillicothe is slated to visit Clarinda in its originally-scheduled regular-season finale Saturday evening and then have the A’s back to “Chuck” Haney Field Sunday for a now-meaningless rainout.
Friday’s Mudcats loss dropped the club’s overall record this summer to 16-20, shortening the odds further that this year’s squad will finish with a losing record for the second time in the past three seasons. The Grand River Entertainment-sponsored college-level, wood-bat baseball team never had a record worse than .500 from its 2002 debut through 2017 and only once was the final overall mark a break-even one.
To avoid a sub-.500 fate this year, Chillicothe will have to earn at least its first win over the A’s, now 36-5, or, more likely, at least two. The southern Iowa team has filleted the Fish six times without a loss to date this summer and by an average score of approximately 11-3. In the process of out-scoring the Mudcats 66-17 through Friday’s contest, Clarinda has won by the 10-runs-lead rule twice and at least six runs every time.
With Chillicothe still having a slender thread of hope of surging to a second-place finish entering Friday’s contest, it effectively was snipped in the opening half-inning.
It was quickly obvious Mudcats starting pitcher Logan Snow (2-3) didn’t have his best “stuff” and the A’s made him pay immediately.
Swinging with calm, measured strokes focused on making solid, square contact while not chasing pitches out of the stroke zone, the A’s got three solid singles out of their first five batters with a bunt single and walk to the other two. All five crossed the plate and the latest Clarinda blowout already was taking shape before Chillicothe took its first swing.
The Mudcats did score once in its first frame on Zack Stewart’s leadoff double to left-center field and Tanner Sears’ 2-outs hit, but they left two.
When Clarinda stroked four more hits and scored four more runs in the top of the third, knocking out Snow in the process of growing its advantage to 9-1, the outcome was nearly certain and the question – eventually answered, “yes” – became whether the contest would end early on the “runs rule.”
After dropping into a 12-1 chasm after 4-1/2 innings, the Mudcats had their biggest flurry of the evening.
Koby Linder poked an opposite-way single to left with one down and advanced as Stewart got his second hit of the game. A wild throw to first while trying to double up Braedyn Brewer let Linder score and Brewer later came across on a wild pitch, temporarily lowering the deficit to single digits at 12-3 after five innings.
However, Chillicothean Tristen Sewell surrendered two runs on three hits in two-thirds of an inning in the seventh, restoring the A’s advantage to 11 runs before Stewart, who began the game as catcher and toured all nine positions over the course of the shortened action, completed that defensive circuit by taking the mound and getting the last out of the seventh on a tap back to himself on a 3-0 pitch.
Statistically, Clarinda raked five Mudcats pitchers for 15 hits and 14 runs, all but two earned, while A’s starting and winning pitcher Keean Allen (six innings) and reliever Desmond Cabanilla checked Chillicothe on five hits.
Stewart had two of the Mudcats’ hits and scored one of their runs, while a handful of Clarinda hitters had multiple hits. Star shortstop Travis Welker, likely the league’s “player of the year” with his .415 batting average, 34 runs driven in, and league-high 49 hits, went three for four with four runs scored and one RBI. Teammate Taylan Mullins-Ohm also was three for four, scored twice and knocked in two.
Entering Friday's game only three runs batted in away from tying the team record for a season, Mudcat Greyson Barrett went hitless in two at-bats and walked twice. The free passes were only his fourth and fifth of the season in 142 plate appearances.