The St. Joseph Mustangs concluded their home regular season schedule with a 9-5 loss to the Carroll Merchants Saturday. During the game, Carroll clinched the final postseason berth in the M.I.N.K. League, so neither team had anything to play for over the last few innings. However, the game still played out as one of the most intense this summer has offered.
Mustangs starting pitcher Mason Holton, who was honored as the team’s Pitcher of the Year before the game, threw only two innings Saturday. He allowed a run in the first but struck out four while on the mound. Right-hander Manny Peña would handle the subsequent two frames, also allowing one run in the fourth inning.
Trailing by a pair in the bottom of the fourth, St, Joe leveled the score with one swing. With two runners in scoring position, right field Ike Book pounded a double to the right-center gap. Carroll would answer right back with two in the fifth, though, as the Mustangs committed two defensive errors behind Tanner Schmidt.
In the seventh, St. Joe finally chased Carroll starting pitcher Noah Dutler and took the lead for the first time. With two outs and the bases loaded, the Merchants made their move to the bullpen with Aron Harrington coming to bat. The designated hitter still delivered, punching a two-run, game-tying single into right field. Book then made it 5-4 by serving a single into left field.
What followed was a wacky, four-run top of the eighth inning. After a controversial caught stealing and a strikeout, Carroll had a runner at second with two outs. Jack Wells induced what could have been an inning-ending fly ball, but Book misjudged the play and the baseball sliced out of his reach to tie the game.
A similar situation later unfolded in left field, as Dakota Spicer just missed a diving grab to end the half-inning. Instead, Carroll reclaimed the lead and went on to score two more runs to move ahead by three. The Merchants would add another in the ninth for good measure, locking up a 9-5 victory.
In a battle of regular season division champions, the Mustangs will travel south to Joplin for a 7 p.m. game Sunday. That game will close out the season before postseason play begins Monday.