The St. Joseph Mustangs completed their largest comeback of the summer Thursday in Chillicothe. Despite trailing 6-0 through five innings, the Mustangs won the game 9-8. Now 29-15 overall and 27-14 in M.I.N.K. League play, the Mustangs have defeated the Mudcats three consecutive times after opening the season 0-3 against them.
Left-hander Aron Harrington made the start for the Mustangs on the mound. And though he needed 33 pitches to work through the first inning, he kept St. Joe close enough to make a comeback. That first inning, which included two Mustang errors, saw four Mudcats come in to score.
After the rocky start, Harrington needed only 21 pitches to complete the next two innings. However, he ran into more trouble in the fourth and fifth frames, allowing a run in each of them. For the second consecutive trip to Chillicothe, the Mustangs trailed by six or more runs entering the sixth inning.
In the sixth, the St. Joe offense went to work. Back-to-back walks loaded the bases ahead of third baseman Mason Holton, who brought in the visitors’ first run with a sacrifice fly. Right fielder Will Dryburgh, who finished with a three-hit night, then singled in a second Mustang run. Catcher Oscar Pegg later walked with the bases juiced, trimming the deficit down to three.
St. Joe repeated the act in the top of the seventh inning, knotting the game up at six. After back-to-back singles opened up the frame, first baseman Ike Book ripped a two-run double. Two batters later, Dryburgh dug in again with Book at third. Looking to tie the game with a productive out, the speedster bounced the ball to third. The throw beat book to the plate, but his slide kicked the ball away and he scored to tie it up.
Meanwhile, Frank Gall had retired his first six hitters faced out of the bullpen. But in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Mudcats had their way. Chillicothe followed a leadoff walk with a double and a two-run single, taking an 8-6 lead.
At that point, the Mustangs still hadn’t led, but they were ripe for one more push. A pair of walks early in the ninth forced a move to the Chillicothe bullpen, but the pitching change made no difference. Dryburgh singled again to load the bases, setting up designated hitter Ryan Callahan for a sacrifice fly off the bench.
Then, with his team down to its final out, catcher Ben Click stepped in. Though his first at-bat of the night came with the game on the line, the backstop was more than ready to do damage. On a two-strike offering, he tied the game with a single to center field. The throw to the plate then bounced away, allowing the go-ahead run to score. At long last, the Mustangs had taken the lead.
In the bottom of the ninth, Chillicothe threatened with a one-out single, but the threat was short-lived. Holton made a smooth snare on a hot shot to third, starting a game-ending 5-4-3 double play.
The Mustangs will begin their final homestand of the regular season Friday against Chillicothe. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Phil Welch Stadium.