Griffons split with Chillicothe, snap four-game losing skid
A 5-2 victory over the Chillicothe Mudcats Sunday night ended a four-game losing streak as the Nevada Griffons improved to 4-5 overall (3-5 MINK League).
The previous evening Nevada fell to Chillicothe 4-2 in 10 innings, with both contests being played at Lyons Stadium.
Mudcats 4 Griffons 2
With the winning run just 90-feet away and no outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Griffons were unable to secure victory, leaving the bases loaded as they eventually fell 4-2 in 10 innings.
Stranding 14 base runners including four in the bottom of the ninth wasn't the only thing that cost the Griffons a victory, with defense being the other major culprit. After committing six errors Friday night against Branson, Nevada was charged with four errors Saturday.
Keeping hope alive for the Mudcats with two outs in the top of the 10th inning, Jacob Biller doubled off of Griffons relief pitcher Tyler Butcher. The play was somewhat controversial as Biller appeared to have been tagged out at second base a split-second before he reached the bag, on a strong throw from right-center field.
The diving Biller however, was called safe on the play that likely would have been reviewed had it been a Major League Baseball game.
"Jacob has been swinging the bat well this week," Chillicothe head coach Tai Mitchell said of the switch-hitting Biller, who is stronger from the left side of the plate. "He battled with two strikes and then got a pitch he could drive."
Following in the order was Mudcats cleanup hitter Dalton Schumer. On the payoff pitch Biller bolted for third base. Catcher Jake McPhail's throw was wide of third baseman Adam Eskil and up the left field line allowing the speedy Biller to easily score. The go-ahead run handed Chillicothe a 3-2 lead.
In addition, the full-count pitch was called a ball, putting Schumer on first base. After the critical sequence of events, Butcher was relieved on the mound by Troy Hall, a left-handed pitcher out of Greenville, Tennessee.
The first batter Hall faced, Andrew Tannous, doubled to deep left-center field, scoring Schumer from first. The insurance run put Chillicothe on top 4-2. Tannous was left stranded in scoring position as Hall struck out John Remick to retire the side.
The bottom of the 10th inning opened with Griffons pinch-hitter Nick Guaragna singling to right-center field off Mudcats relief pitcher Zach Smith.
The complexion of the inning changed in a hurry as shortstop Tyler Wetrich lined out to third base with Guaragna getting doubled off first on the play. Ethaniel Valdez then grounded out to shortstop for the game's final out.
Golden opportunity lost
With the contest tied 2-2 entering the bottom of the ninth, the frame opened with three consecutive singles off the bats of heart of the order hitters Cole Johnson, Tyler Pagano, and Kainulu Pitoy ---- loading the bases.
With virtually no room for error, Smith came up with a strike out of Judah Zickafoose for the inning's first out.
With the infield playing "in" for a play at the plate, a Samuel Mitchell grounder to first resulted in an accurate throw to home as Johnson was forced out on the play. With two down and the bases still loaded, Jaxxon Fagg grounded sharply back to Smith, who then threw to first base for the final out as the Mudcats successfully navigated through the treacherous inning.
"Needing strike outs, Zach mixed his pitches well," Tai Mitchell said. "Anything put in play had a good chance of plating the winning run."
Mitchell, an assistant coach just down the road with the Fort Scott Community College (Kan.) Greyhounds, said Smith lessened the pressure on himself with the strike out of Zickafoose.
"We then had the double-play in order that would have ended the inning," he said.
For Nevada, Pagano was 3-for-4 at the plate with two runs scored and a stolen base. On the mound, six Nevada pitchers recorded outs, with Butcher (0-1) being charged with the loss. Griffons starter Jarred Scott pitched three innings, allowing an earned run while striking out two, walking two, and yielding just one hit.
Smith (1-1) picked up the win for Chillicothe, working four innings of relief. His long-relief appearance included four hits, four walks, and a strike out while not allowing a run.
Griffons 5 Mudcats 2
After falling behind 2-0 in the top of the first inning Sunday against Chillicothe, the Griffons bounced back for the 5-2 victory.
With 1-out in the top of the first, Preson Pavlica singled to center field off Griffons starting pitcher Bryce Tassin. Tassin put runners on first and second base after hitting three-hole hitter Nick Gawley. Pavlica eventually came around to score courtesy of a sacrifice fly to center field off the bat of Schumer.
A 2-out Ross McWhorter single scored Gawley as the Mudcats went in front 2-0. With runners on first and second, the inning concluded with a Tassin strike out of designated hitter Nick Banman.
The bottom of the second inning opened with the red-hot Pagano singling to right field off Mudcats starting pitcher Zach McLeod. After a Pagano stolen base, he was later moved over to third base on a Fagg fielders choice ground out, for the innings second out. Following in the order, Samuel Mitchell laced a McLeod fastball into right field, scoring Pagano from third as the Griffons trailed 2-1.
The top of the fourth was a shaky inning for Tassin, as he allowed a single while also issuing two walks to load the bases with two outs. After loading the bases, Tassin was replaced by Riley Ulery, a right-handed pitcher out of Asbury, Missouri.In a key spot, Asbury struck out Pavlica looking to end the inning.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Griffons tacked on a pair of runs to take a 3-2 lead. Left-handed hitter Cole Johnson opened the inning with a double to deep right field. Pagano then hammered a double into the right-center field gap, scoring Johnson from second to tie the game 2-2.
With Pitoy in the batters box, an errant pick-off throw trickled into center field, as Pagano advanced from second to third. At the plate, Pitoy's ground out to the shortstop plated Pagano, handing the Griffons a 3-2 advantage. The inning came to a close after Samuel Mitchell grounded into a double-play.
For the Griffons, Ulery was sharp, tossing three scoreless frames as he allowed only two hits while fanning three.
Providing a boost to the Griffons lineup is the recent addition of corner infielder Guaragna. Guaragna was unable to join the Griffons at the beginning of the season due to his school Yavapai College (Ariz.) competing in and winning the JUCO World Series.
The bottom of the sixth inning opened with Guaragna slugging a home run to left field off Chillicothe relief pitcher Pablo Ortiz. The solo blast put the Griffons on top 4-2.
After reaching on a 2-out single to right field, Pitoy later came around to score on a Conner Pomering infield single, as the Griffons took control leading 5-2.
Jack Burk earned his first save of the season, firing 1 2/3 innings of no-hit ball while striking out a pair of Mudcats. In middle relief, Ulery (1-0) picked up the victory. At the plate, Pagano was 2-for-4 with two runs scored an RBI and a stolen base; Guaragna 2-for-4 with an RBI and run; and Johnson 2-for-3 with a run scored.
Pagano named player of week
Tyler Pagano, who carries a .425 batting average through the first nine games of the season, was named the MINK League Offensive Player of the Week.
After wrapping up its four-game home-stand, the Griffons now embark on a six-game road trip, beginning Tuesday with a three-game series against the Clarinda (Iowa) A's. The Griffons do not return home until Sunday, when they host St. Joe's at 7 p.m. Included with Sunday's home-contest is free admission, courtesy of Nevada Regional Medical Center.