The Chillicothe Paints are one win away from winning their second ever Prospect League title.
Entering Tuesday night’s PL championship finale, the Paints and the Cape Catfish were tied at 1-1 in the best-of-three championship series. That translates into the winner of Tuesday night’s game taking home the trophy.
The Paints won their only other Prospect League championship during the 2010 season, which was the second year of existence for the collegiate wooden bat league. Waverly graduate Ryan Robertson was a member of that team as a pitcher.
To get to the 2019 championship, the Paints beat the Danville Dans 3-1 on Thursday, Aug. 8 in the East Division title game, while the Cape Catfish defeated the DuPage Pistol Shrimp in the West Division title game by a score of 5-2.
Cape sported the best record in the league at the end of the regular season at 43-17, finishing 8.5 games ahead of the second-place Pistol Shrimp (34-25) in the West Division. Chillicothe and Danville finished with matching records of 40-20 in the East Division, but the Dans held the tiebreaker, giving them home field advantage for the divisional game. Cape received home field advantage for the final series, based on record.
The PL championship series began Saturday in Chillicothe at V.A. Memorial Stadium with Cape taking a 6-3 win.
In that game, Cape scored the initial run in the top of the first inning when Curtis Washington Jr. delivered a solo home run, 1-0.
The Paints countered with a run of their own in the bottom of the second inning. Cole Andrews (Miami University) led off with a double and scored when teammate Trey Smith (University of Indianapolis) did the same, 1-1.
The Catfish took control by scoring two runs in the fourth and another in the fifth to go up 4-1.
The two runs scored in the fourth inning came during pitching struggles by starter Zach Kendall (University of Rio Grande), who hit a batter and walked another to put two runners on with one out. A groundout pushed them into scoring position. Then they both crossed the plate when Christopher Jordan reached first safely on an error by Chillicothe’s second baseman Gavin Homer. At that point, the score was 3-1.
The Catfish scored again in the top of the fifth inning when Ellison Hanna II hit a two-out solo home run against Chillicothe relief pitcher Cal McAnnich (Northern Kentucky University), 4-1.
The Paints prevented more damage in the top of the sixth inning by getting out of a bases-loaded jam. That defensive stand helped them follow with some offense in the bottom of the sixth inning. Cody Orr (Tiffin University) started by reaching base on an error by the Cape third baseman. Homer added a one-out double. Then Andrews followed with a single that was misplayed by the Cape left fielder. The error allowed Orr and Homer to score, but Andrews was thrown out trying to get to second. Then Trey Smith went down on strikes to bring the inning to a close, 4-3.
Coming back with two more runs, Cape pushed the lead to three for a final time. Andrew Keck led off with an infield single, took second on a wild pitch, stole third, and scored when Brady Cottom tripled to right field. Cottom later had the chance to score when Zane Wallace grounded out to shortstop, 6-3.
Chillicothe was limited to one hit in the eighth inning, a double by Chris Eisel (Indiana University of Pennsylvania), and one in the ninth with a single from Andrews.
Andrews was the leading hitter for Chillicothe and the only player with multiple hits. He finished 3-for-4 with a double, one run and one RBI. Smith, Homer and Eisel each went 1-for-4 with a double. Smith generated the other RBI.
After having Sunday as a travel day with the series moving from Chillicothe to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, play resumed on Monday at Capaha Field.
In summary, the Catfish gained the initial 2-0 lead by scoring in the bottom of the first inning. That held until the fifth inning when the Paints took their first lead of the series by plating three more runs. They added three additional runs in the sixth and three more in the eighth to go up 9-2. Cape rallied for two final runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to cut the score to 9-4.
In the top of the fifth inning, Chillicothe’s Justin McIntyre (Western Michigan University) started his team’s offense with a leadoff double. Parker Murdie (Grand Valley State University) was the next base runner after drawing a one-out walk. They both moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. McIntyre was able to score on a groundout to second from Colin Shepherd (Miami University). Then Murdie came home when Cody Orr reached base with a single, tying the game at 2-2. Orr went to second on an error by the center fielder and scored when Gavin Homer reached via an error to put the Paints ahead 3-2.
Three more runs came across in the top of the sixth inning. Trey Smith started with a single against reliever Brandon Stuckenschneider. After McIntyre went down swinging, Ethan Hajdukovic and Murdie each worked a walk, filling the bases with Paints. Then Shepherd stepped to the plate and delivered a base hit, giving Smith and Hajdukovic time to score. Orr provided the next RBI, reaching first on a fielder’s choice that allowed Murdie to score, increasing the lead to 6-2.
In the eighth inning, Homer delivered a three-run shot after Murdie singled and Eisel walked. That quickly extended the lead to seven, 9-2.
Cape rallied briefly in the bottom of the eight inning, using an error and a ground rule double to put runners in scoring position. Both of those runners scored when Dalton Doyle produced a single, cutting the lead to 9-4. Reliever Jack Huisman (Western Michigan) was replaced by Mitch Milheim (Ohio State), who was able to prevent any more damage.
Chillicothe starter Jack Raines (Baldwin Wallace) was credited with the win, pitching 6-2/3 innings. He gave up two runs (one earned) on three hits, while striking out five and walking two.
Homer and Shepherd each produced three RBIs for the their team, going 1-for-5. Orr had the other RBI, finishing 2-for-5.
The final game of the championship series was set to begin at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday evening. The winner will win the championship.