It said everything about how depleted the Midwest Nationals’ pitching staff became recently that they sent out seven pitchers for their Show-Me Collegiate League playoff game with the Queen City Crush on Thursday.
The Nationals teamed to walk 11, helping the Crush walk away with a 7-3 victory.
“We had to pitch a bunch of guys who hadn’t really pitched before,” Ozark grad and Nationals shortstop Blake Mozley said, referring to the team’s first six pitchers having no more than three appearances on the mound prior to Thursday. “We had a couple pitchers go on vacation and a couple others got hurt. (Ty Wilmsmeyer) went to Mizzou early, that was a big loss for us.”
Meanwhile, the Crush strengthened their pitching staff after an 0-6 start to the season and earned themselves a spot opposite the Springfield Cobras in the championship series. The teams will play tonight and Saturday, with a third game, if needed, slated for Sunday.
“They were struggling at the beginning and I honestly didn’t think they would be playing for the championship,” Mozley said. “They picked up some left-handed pitchers and their team is really good now.
“I think (the championship series) will definitely go three games," he added. "I think the Crush will beat the Cobras.”
Mozley capped a consistently good first season in the Show-Me League by going 1-for-3 to finish with a .336 batting average. After the Nationals’ third game, he was never below .300.
Mozley led the Show-Me batting race for a while, before finishing third to Cobras shortstop Mason Hull and Ozark Wild right fielder Riley Herron. Hull topped the league with a .398 bating average after regular-season play, while Herron hit .337.
Hull was hitting .219 (7-for-32) after nine games, but closed by hitting .636 (21-for-33) over his last nine games.
Mozley and Hull figure to battle for the starting shortstop job at Missouri State.
“That dude, he’s on fire right now,” Mozley said of Hull. “He’s been getting two, three or four hits a game the last 10 games. Even with me finishing (third in the batting race), I feel I underachieved. But Hull is having a really good summer, so I’m not going to be too hard on myself.”
Mozley combined 28 walks with his 37 hits for a .472 on-base percentage.
“I wanted to end the season with an on-base percentage of .500,” he said. “I got close to it.”
Ozark grad and Nationals third baseman/catcher Carson Shaver endured a 1-for-9 finish and was hitless Thursday. But he was the league’s RBI leader with 24, to go along with a .320 batting mark.
Cobras center fielder Mason Auer was second with 20 RBIs. Both Shaver and Auer are also bound for MSU.
Other league leaders:
— Cobras second baseman D.J. McNew, a BYU product out of Mountain Grove, hit a league-best three home runs.
— Ozark grad and Ozark Wild pitcher Forrest Barnes, a sophomore at MSU, led the league with 58 strikeouts in 40 innings. He was 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA.
— Cobras pitcher Ethan Paschke topped the circuit with six wins. The Missouri Southern sophomore was 6-3 with a 2.85 ERA.
— Nationals pitcher Tony Caldwell, of JeffCo, had a league-best 1.59 ERA covering 34 innings. He was 0-1 with a pair of saves.
Other locals and their performances included:
— Nixa grad Luke Hauswirth, of the Nationals, was 3-0 with a 1.87 ERA. The Kansas State senior did not throw after July 12.
— Ozark grad Adam White threw Thursday for the Nationals for the first time in two weeks. A Southwest Baptist senior, he finished 1-3 with a 2.96 ERA.
— Ozark grad Dylan Frandsen, of the Wild, was 4-3 with a 7.12 ERA. He is bound for Drury.
— Nixa grad Bryant Avery joined the Nationals during the second week of July and hit .292. He is headed to NorthArk.
— Nixa grad Payton Hannah, of the Wild, batted .219 with five doubles and two triples. He is a sophomore at Drury.
— Nixa grad and Missouri Southern signee Hunter Crabtree filled in for the Nationals for seven games and hit .154 with a home run.