By Matt Goisman
KREBS — The Mudhens needed a win in the consolation finals Saturday just to make the championship.
Whatever added tax that extra game put on the Mudhens’ bullpen, it didn’t stop them from beating the Thunder and putting themselves one win away from a Pittsburg County Little League championship.
The Mudhens scored the go-ahead run the top of the sixth inning, then reliever Trevor Chancellor struck out Micah Strzelecki with the tying run on second to give the Mudhens a 7-6 win against the Thunder in Saturday’s AAA championship at Deerinwater Field in Krebs.
Updated Sunday afternoon: The win forced a second championship game Sunday, which the Thunder won 9-7 to take the AAA title.
While Connor Clayton had already given the Thunder two innings of scoreless relief, he walked Chancellor with one out in the top of the sixth. Chancellor went to second on a passed ball, then took third on Chance Lott’s sacrifice groundout back to the pitcher’s mound.
Jaxon Wills then dropped a dribbler halfway between home plate and the mound. Clayton fielded it and tried to throw Chancellor out at home, but Chancellor beat the throw to give the Mudhens a 7-6 lead.
Clayton struck out Cooper Johnson to end the top of the sixth, but in the bottom of the sixth Chancellor struck out both Travis Johns and Wyatt Shearwood to quickly put the Mudhens one out away from victory. Clayton beat out an infield single for his second hit of the day and then stole second, but Chancellor struck out Strzelecki to end the game.
“We hit the ball,” Mudhens coach Keith Barnes said following Saturday’s game.
“We just hit the ball when we needed to tonight.”
The Thunder jumped out early in the game, with Clayton leading off the bottom of the first with a single and Strzelecki driving him in with another single. Strzelecki later scored on a passed ball, then Grady Kitchens drew a walk.
Kitchens stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. Cameron Warden drove in Kitchens with a ground out to third for a 3-0 Thunder lead.
But the Mudhens got two runs back in the third on Caden Buckner’s groundout and an error on Matteo Chavarria’s liner to shortstop. Turner West then led off the top of the fourth with an infield single, and Royce Florenzano reached on an error.
Malachi Wrice’s double to right drove in West and Florenzano for a 4-3 Mudhens lead, then Brycen Cervantes’ single to left scored Wrice. An outfield error on Cervantes’ hit allowed him to reach second, then he stole third and scored on a passed ball for a 6-3 lead.
Warden responded for the Thunder in the bottom of the third, drilling a one-out pitch from Cervantes to deep right field. Warden had already rounded third by the time Johnson tracked the ball down, and Warden scored without a play at the plate for an inside-the-park home run.
Javen Coleman followed Warden with a walk, as did Ayden Shumway. Paco’s Garnett singled to center to load the bases, then Coleman scored on a wild pitch to cut the Mudhens’ lead to 6-5.
Warden also beat out an infield single in the bottom of the fifth, then stole second. Coleman sacrificed him to third, and Warden scored on a passed ball to tie the game 6-6.
Chancellor got the win, giving up one run on three hits, a walk and four strikeouts in three innings. Clayton took the loss, allowing one run on no hits, a walk, a hit-by-pitch and four strikeouts in three innings.
“Errors cost us, and we didn’t hit the ball very well today,” Thunder coach Rodney Kelley said. “They had a good pitcher. He’s one of the better pitchers in the league.”
Cervantes and Thunder starter Kitchens both lasted three innings and took no-decisions. Cervantes also led the Mudhens at the plate, batting 2-for-3 with a run batted in and a run scored.
For the Thunder, Warden batted 2-for-3 with a home run, an RBI, two runs scored and a stolen base. Garnett and Clayton also both had two-hit days, with Clayton scoring a run.
Splitting the two championship games, the Thunder finished the PCLL season with a 17-4 record. The Mudhens finished 17-7.
Contact Matt Goisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.