The Joplin Outlaws were unable to keep their late-season momentum going.
As a result, they were one and done in the postseason.
The third-seeded Jefferson City Renegades topped the second-seeded Joplin Outlaws 3-1 in the wild card game of the MINK League’s South Division playoffs on Tuesday night at Joe Becker Stadium.
The Renegades (17-26) advance to the division title game against the Ozark Generals (22-16) at 7 tonight at Meador Park in Springfield.
With a seven-game win streak snapped, Joplin ends a solid season with a record of 27-18, a 10-game improvement from last summer.
“You always hate to lose and see it end, but it’s been a fun summer,” Outlaws manager Danny Weaver said. “In the three years I’ve been here, we’ve worked hard to go in the right direction. The good thing about this year is we were able to put some win streaks together and have a winning record. We had a lot more winning nights this summer. It’s been enjoyable to be around these guys and this coaching staff.”
In a win-or-go-home scenario, a lack of offense doomed the Outlaws as they were limited to five hits in the nine-inning affair.
“The offense was anemic tonight,” Weaver said. “We’ve been pretty good late in the season at stringing hits together. It was one of those nights where we just didn’t swing it well, and we didn’t have a whole lot of chances to make things happen. It’s been a long time since we haven’t scored at least three runs in a game. It was the worst time to happen.”
The Renegades halted an eight-game skid and extended their season.
“This team has had some struggles, but we’re better than our record shows,” Renegades manager Mike DeMilia said. “Yeah, we were on an eight-game losing streak, but we’ve been in every game. We weren’t making plays when we needed to, and we weren’t getting hits when we needed to. Tonight, we did those things, so I’m proud.”
Outlaws right-hander Brett Biggs (5-2) surrendered two earned runs on seven hits in 61/3 innings and was charged with the loss. Austin Gottula gave up one run in 22/3 innings of relief.
“Our pitchers threw well,” Weaver said. “Our pitching gave us a chance to win.”
Jefferson City used six pitchers to keep Joplin’s bats mostly silent. Xander Lovin (1-1) earned the win, and Shane Fontenot picked up his third save.
“Our pitching staff was really good,” DeMilia said. “We pieced it together. All year, we’ve had some moments where we left a guy in too long, and it hurt us. I wasn’t going to let that happen tonight. We wanted to keep them off balance, and we made some key plays behind them.”
Paul Haupt and Tommy Ruether had two hits apiece for the Renegades.
It was the first home playoff game in franchise history for the Outlaws.
The Renegades pushed across a single tally in the first on Lincoln Orellana’s sacrifice fly to left. They had an opportunity to add a run in the second, but center fielder Zack Ehlen caught a fly ball and then threw out Ruether at the plate for an inning-ending double play.
The Outlaws tied it up in the fourth as Donovan Sutti singled to center and Marcos Villegas drew a two-out walk before catcher Ryan Lorber delivered a run-scoring single up the middle.
In a game-changing seventh, Jefferson City’s Ryan Missal hooked a two-run home run over the short fence in right field on the first pitch he saw from Gottula.
The Outlaws had a couple of late chances but failed to capitalize.
With two outs in the eighth, Mike Million doubled and Villegas walked, but Lane Threlkeld induced an inning-ending fly ball off the bat of Lorber. The Outlaws had the tying run at the plate in the ninth after David Butterfield walked, but Fontenot retired the side.
“I have to commend Joplin,” DeMilia said. “They’ve had an awesome season. That’s definitely the best Joplin team I’ve seen in my three years. I also commend them for playing the season out and doing the right thing.”
The Renegades didn’t secure a postseason berth until the Nevada Griffons dropped both games of a twinbill to Joplin on Monday. Jefferson City and Nevada finished with identical MINK League records (12-26), but the Renegades earned the playoff spot via tie-breaker, as they had a better South Division record.
Joplin went 5-1 against Jefferson City during the regular season; however, four games between the teams were one-run affairs.
The North Division’s wild card clash saw second-seeded Chillicothe beat third-seeded Sedalia 8-6. The Mudcats advanced to play at top-seeded St. Joseph tonight.
The best-of-three North vs. South league championship series is scheduled to run Thursday-Saturday.