The Jefferson City Renegades got four strong innings from starter Andrew Paten, scored three runs early and kept their momentum rolling Wednesday night, defeating the Kansas City Monarchs 4-1 at Vivion Field in an exhibition game.
Paten struck out three, gave up four hits and walked none, using his pitches to create ground ball and fly ball outs for the Renegades, who played their second of three straight non-MINK League games after Nevada ended its season due to COVID-19.
Jefferson City will host the J.C. Legends at 7 p.m. today before hosting Joplin in a pair of pivotal MINK League South games this weekend.
“It’s easy to get sidetracked in the games that aren’t league games, but going out there and playing hard, and being able to win in these games, just keeps us rolling,” Paten said after the win. “Keeps the winning mentality going for the two big games against Joplin and the playoffs after that.”
Paten gave up a leadoff double to start the game, then the Monarchs ginned up a run with a sacrifice bunt and an RBI groundout.
But the Renegades started the home half of the first exactly the same way, thanks to reigning MINK League player of the week Josef Keilholz, who doubled to right. Drew Mize, Carter Mize, Seth Denoyer and Hamilton Anderson added singles to give the Renegades a 3-1 lead after the first.
“We were able to get good pitches to hit and put some good swings on ’em,” head coach Mike DeMilia said.
Defense shone in the middle and late innings for the Renegades. While the offense couldn’t find another breakthrough inning against Josh Kerschen, who threw all eight innings for the Monarchs, heads-up plays made sure the visitors also didn’t threaten too severely.
“We won our last three league games, to win (Tuesday and today) on good pitching and defense, we’ve swung the bats OK, but I feel like the momentum, I definitely feel like we’re confident and I think we’re in a good place right now,” DeMilia said.
After back-to-back singles with one out in the fourth put runners on the corners, Paten induced a 6-4-3 double play.
Brady Voss of the Renegades made a diving catch running in from center field for the third out of the fifth, a 1-2-3 frame.
Trenton Morrow allowed a single and a ground-rule double to right to start the sixth, but a flyout to left, and a strong throw in from Joe Zink, prevented the runner from tagging. Morrow struck out the next batter and got a grounder to second to end the inning.
“Those are plays you need to win close games,” DeMilia said.
Following a leadoff single in the eighth, Seth Denoyer speared a sharp liner at third base and got to his feet in time to double off the runner at first base in support of Quinn Goettel. The righty walked the first batter of the ninth, then hit the next, but incoming Missouri commit Tony Neubeck struck out three straight batters to end the game, the last two looking with his breaking stuff.
Nevada dropping out last week means Sedalia, Joplin and Jefferson City will all make the playoffs, but the seeding will depend on this weekend’s action.
“I think it’s actually helped keep us more relaxed,” Paten said, “knowing that we don’t have to stress winning each game and we can just go out there knowing we’re going to make the playoffs.”
The Renegades, at 15-18, are 3 games back of Sedalia, which clinched the South Division with a win Wednesday against Joplin. The Outlaws (16-20) are a half-game back of Jefferson City for the second seed. Joplin plays Sedalia again today and comes to Jefferson City Friday and Saturday.
The postseason begins Monday, with a single-elimination format until the league championship series.
“We really want that home field. We traveled for three straight weeks,” DeMilia said before Sedalia clinched the division, referencing the team’s road trips and home rainouts around the MINK League All-Star Game at Vivion Field. “We don’t really want to go on the road unless we absolutely have to.
“So to get that home field, and I think we’ve played pretty well here, too, so that’s a big thing for the guys and I think they’re motivated to do it. Just gotta see if we can get it done.”