O’Fallon Win, Coupled With Alton Loss, Ends Catfish Season

Cape Girardeau, MO Aug. 6 – It all came down to the last game of the regular season and for the Catfish the theme Saturday was “win and we’re in.”

A win by the Catfish over the O’Fallon Hoots at Capaha Park would clinch a Prairie Land Division title for the Fish, guaranteeing a first-round playoff appearance in defense of their 2021 Prospect League championship.

Meanwhile, a loss by the second-place Springfield Lucky Horseshoes to the Alton River Dragons Saturday night would also put Cape in the playoffs, but the Catfish preferred to take care of business themselves and not depend on Alton to beat Springfield.

But the Dragons were slayed by the Horseshoes 6-5. Less than five minutes after the game in Alton ended, the Catfish lost to O’Fallon 6-4, ending Cape’s season and the team’s quest for postseason play.

The Hoots took a 3-0 lead in their first at bat thanks to a bases loaded sacrifice fly by right fielder Ambrose Russo (Lindenwood) and an RBI single to right by second baseman Zak Hartleb (University of Illinois) that was bobbled by Catfish right fielder Cam Hill (Purdue) allowing a second run to score on the play.

Cape got on the scoreboard in the bottom half of the first when designated hitter Andrew Sharp (West Virginia State) doubled to left, advanced to third when catcher Blake Barton (Belmont) singled to right and scored on a wild pitch thrown by Hoots starter Jonah Callaghan from Southeast Missouri State.

But the Hoots regained their three-run lead in the top of the second when shortstop Tyson Ludwig from Bryant & Stratton College, playing in just his fourth game of the season and making his fifth plate appearance, hit his first home run of the summer over the left field fence.

The score remained 4-1 in O’Fallon’s favor until the top of the sixth when Russo hit the second pitch of the inning from Catfish starter Marshall Brown (Arkansas Tech) over the right field wall. It was Russo’s third home run and 24th RBI of the season, giving the Hoots a 5-1 advantage.

Callaghan pitched into the sixth inning before being relieved by Carson Subbert, a freshman from Lindenwood University. After retiring the first three batters he faced, Subbert walked Catfish shortstop Lane Crowden (Three Rivers Community College), center fielder Christopher Hall (Florida State College at Jacksonville) singled and Sharp reached base on an error that allowed Crowden to score.

Catfish left fielder Josh Cameron (Southeast Missouri State) then hit a sharp grounder off the glove of Hoots first baseman Dalton Short, a freshman at Potomac State College. Short recovered the ball and tossed it to Subbert covering first for what initially appeared to be the third out of the inning, preventing Hall, who was on third, from scoring. However, Catfish manager Stephen Larkin disputed the call, prompting a discussion between the umpires who reversed the initial call, ruling Subbert missed first base. That allowed Hall to score, cutting the O’Fallon lead to 5-3.

But the Hoots answered in the top of the eighth when their center fielder, Patrick Clohisy (Purdue) led off with his 14th double of the season, stole third and scored with two outs when pinch-hitter Jack Dunn (Mineral Area College) was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

Trailing 6-3 in the bottom of the eighth, the Catfish put the first two batters on base when Wallace walked and third baseman Kolton Poorman (Three Rivers) singled. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Wallace then scored and Poorman advanced to third on a sacrifice fly to deep center hit by first baseman Cam Careswell (Mizzou). Poorman was stranded on third when the next two Catfish batters struck out.

Hoots reliever Pierce Hartmann (Mineral Area College) retired the Catfish in order in ninth to preserve the win and earn his first save of the season as he ended the Catfish season.

Callaghan, making his second start of the season for the Hoots, got the win, improving to 2-2. He pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and one run while striking out five and walking two. Cape starter Marshall Brown took the loss to even his record at 4-4. He lasted five innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on five hits while striking out three and walking one Hoot.

Both the Hoots and Catfish had six hits and two errors.

The Catfish finished with a record of 14-14 (a .500 winning percentage) in the second half of the season, 26-33 overall, for a winning percentage of .441. Meanwhile, the Springfield River Dragons ended the second half of the season with a record of 15-14, for a winning percentage of .517, and will advance to postseason play.

In their first three seasons in the Prospect League, the Catfish have a regular season record of 107 wins and 72 losses.

Keeping The Game Great: Coach Larkin reflected on Saturday night’s loss – and the end of the Catfish season – during a post-game interview. “We had a tough start, a slow start, but we got better and that’s why we play in this league,” he said. “Baseball is a game of adversity. Somebody’s not going to be happy at the end of the game and this time it was us. We’ve got to learn from it and move forward.”

Despite the team’s failure to defend its championship title, Larkin said the 2022 Catfish succeeded in other ways. “You know, you never want to have a losing record, but the reasons we’re here in this league is for guys to learn how to be professionals, learning the ups and downs of giving 100% of what you have that day and if you give 100% of what you have that day that’s all you can ask and that’s what our guys did.”

In a few weeks, most of the Catfish players will go back to their respective colleges and universities where they’ll play for their school teams. “I want them (the players) to take what they’ve learned this summer back to their schools and share it,” Larkin said. “That’s the way we keep our game great.”