After losing twice in the Hannibal Memorial Weekend Tournament Friday, the Chillicothe American Legion baseball senior Cardinals’ fortunes had not improved any by Saturday afternoon’s final pool-play contest against St. Charles as they fell for a third-straight time, 10-2 in five innings
The Cardinals are slated to wrap up play in the tournament at 1 p.m. Monday (Memorial Day) against an as-yet undisclosed opponent.
The Post No. 25 team drew within 2-1 in the top of the third inning and was behind only 4-2 after 31/2 when the bottom caved in on starting and losing pitcher Justin VanHoutan.
The lefthander was raked for six runs in the St. Charles fourth, putting the game out of reach. Before the top of the sixth inning could give Chillicothe another chance to eat into the St. Charles lead, the time limit expired.
J. VanHoutan checked St. Charles on single runs in each of the first two innings and the Cardinals got back on cozy terms in their third with a 2-out, none-on rally.
Zac Douglas and Trenton Troyer drew back-to-back bases on balls before J. VanHoutan spanked a sharp grounder into center field, loading the bases. Trace Phillips then battled back from a 1-2 count to crack a full-count delivery for an RBI single that made it 2-1, St. Charles. However, with the chance to tie the game or take the lead with another bases-full hit, Chillicothe left the sacks jammed.
St. Charles responded with a deuce in its third, but the Cardinals again came up with 2-out scoring to narrow the gap a bit.
Steven Cooper got an infield hit leading off the Chillicothe fourth and Isaac Mattis of Braymer drew a 4-pitch walk to quickly put the potential tying run in the batter’s box. Consecutive strikeouts threatened to snuff out the budding rally, but Douglas came through with a hit to left that not only plated Cooper from second, but left the hitter at second and Mattis at third as a result of the defense’s throw home.
However, with the tying run now in scoring position, the Cardinals again were choked off on only one tally as a grounder to second ended the inning.
It turned out it also ended Chillicothe’s scoring, thanks in large part to St. Charles using up a huge chunk of the remaining time putting together its 6-run home fourth. By the time that big inning ended, J. VanHoutan had allowed 10 total runs – nine earned – on nine hits.
Part of the lefthander’s problem was he often worked from behind in the count. Only eight times in the 25 batters he faced was his first delivery to the batter either a called strike or swung on and either put in play, missed, or fouled. After missing so often with the first pitch to batters, the 2011 Chillicothe High School graduate was in the strike zone with a very high percentage of the other pitches he made, but St. Charles pounced on many of those too-juicy offerings.
Page 2 of 2 - Josh Allen from Linn County relieved J. VanHoutan at the start of the home fifth and worked a scoreless, 1-hit inning in his second appearance of the tournament.
At bat, Chillicothe again was paced by Steven Cooper. He was a perfect two for two plus a walk and scored once. Through the Cardinals’ first three tourney games, he was five for eight with a couple of runs batted in and an on-base percentage of .666.
The other Cardinals hit besides those by Douglas and J. VanHoutan was a single by Andrew Bottorff of Hamilton.
In their first three games in the tournament, Chillicothe pitchers had allowed double-digit hits each time and a total of 34 in only 18 innings. By contrast, players for the Vern R. Glick Post-sponsored team had produced only 16 hits in the same 18 frames.
Adding to their pitchers’ woes, the Cardinals defense had committed nine errors in three games combined.