The Sedalia Bombers and St. Joseph Mustangs will meet again, but this time, a championship is on the line.
The best-of-three MINK League championship series begins today at Liberty Park. First pitch in game one between the South Division Champion Bombers and North Division Champion Mustangs will be 7 p.m. The second game will be Thursday in St. Joseph with the third, if necessary, Friday in St. Joseph.
The Bombers offense has slumped recently as the team won three consecutive 1-0 games last week before three straight losses to Nevada and a 7-1 loss to Branson on Monday in which the Bombers did not have an extra-base hit.
While the Bombers have struggled, the Mustangs have won seven of the last 10. In two separate wins over Clarinda, the Mustangs scored 13 and eight runs.
“They’re hot,” said Bombers manager Jud Kindle. “In the last 10 games they have probably the best record in the league. They’ll be solid. They’ll have a good, solid pitching staff and solid defense. They’re a spitting image of us, just from St. Joe. It ought to be a really good matchup.”
Defensively, the Mustangs have two starters with ERAs around 1.00. Ryker Fox has allowed a total of six earned runs in 52 1-3 innings this summer. He also shut out the Bombers on June 21. Jake Jones has allowed five earned runs in 34 innings, including 7 2-3 innings against the Bombers July 4 in which Sedalia scored two runs.
“They’ve got guys with great range in the outfield,” Kindle said. “Their one and two are pretty salty. So are ours though.”
Kindle hasn’t decided on who he will send to the mound for games one and two. Bombers starter Cole Bartlett is 3-2 in seven games this summer with a 1.72 ERA. Sam Perez is 4-2 with a 2.72 ERA.
Offensively, the Mustangs have three players hitting over .300 this season — Trent Hill, Francisco Alvarez and Joe Koerper. Kindle expects the Mustangs to rely on small-ball to generate runs.
“They’ll get their bunts down, they like to hit and run a little bit,” he said. “Me and (Mustangs manager) Matt (Johnson) are a lot alike in the way we coach.”
The two teams have been similar in their success as well. Both teams joined the MINK League in 2009 and both have won league titles — the Bombers in 2010 and the Mustangs in 2012. St. Joseph’s championship two years ago came against Sedalia in a three game series, which saw the Bombers take game one at Liberty Park before falling in the nest two games in St. Joseph. The third game, a 7-6 Mustangs win, went to 10 innings.
“I think we’ve both set ourselves apart as the guys to beat in each division,” Kindle said. “The teams were so similar this year, it’s a coin flip. It comes down to whoever plays the best ball on that day.”
The teams’ 2014 records are close, a slight edge for the Mustangs giving them home field advantage in the series. Even the games between the teams have been close. The Bombers won the first meeting 10-2 at Liberty Park on June 13, but the Mustangs have won the last three, including a 3-2 win on July 4 that took 14 innings. Twice this year, the teams have played one-run games.
“It’s going to be the makings of a pretty good series,” Kindle said.