CHS diamond squad edges Macon 1-0, Cameron 2-0 Friday; will play St. Joseph: Lafayette for tourney crown at 11 a.m. Saturday
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
Near-flawless pitching by two senior righthanders and RBI hits by two juniors Friday advanced the Chillicothe High School baseball Hornets to the championship game of their own tournament Saturday.
After Tyler Long’s 4-hit gem made Derek Hussey’s third-inning run-scoring single stand up for a 1-0 victory over Macon Friday afternoon, Ryan Smith fired a 3-hit shutout Friday night and Jared Lauhoff delivered a 2-outs, 2-run single in the bottom of the sixth inning as Chillicothe got past Cameron 2-0 in the Chillicothe Hornets Baseball Classic.
Those wins in round-robin pool play in the 7-teams tournament qualified the host team for Saturday’s 11 a.m. title game against St. Joseph: Lafayette. Lafayette advanced to the championship game with two Thursday wins over Maryville and St. Joseph: Benton.
The title game will played at Chillicothe’s “June” Shaffer Memorial Park stadium after Benton and Macon meet for third place at 9 a.m. The consolation game between Maryville and Cameron will be played at Chillicothe’s Daryl Danner Memorial Park “green” field at 10 a.m. Saturday.
The championship clash will be the third meeting this spring between CHS’ Hornets (9-9) and Lafayette. Chillicothe has won each of the first two.
Should the hosts prevail, it would be their second tournament crown of the season. They recently won the Marshall Invitational.
Friday’s victories in the tight, low-scoring games not only boosted Chillicothe into the tourney’s first-place game, but squared its season record at 9-9 and ended several years of non-success in its own annual tournament.
Entering the Macon game, Hornets teams had lost five-straight games in their own event, dating back to the first round of the 2011 tourney.
After opening that tourney with a victory over Cameron, Chillicothe lost its last two, then went 0-3 in 2012. Last year’s tournament was rained out.
Had Chillicothe coach Troy Figg or Hornets fans been guaranteed prior to Friday’s games that the hosts would produce only three total runs in the two games they’d play, the reaction likely would have been that the tourney losing streak would grow to six or seven.
By the same token, knowing in advance that the team would not allow any runs against either Friday foe, the coach and/or fans would have known that at midday Saturday they’d be at Shaffer Park, watching the Hornets battle for the championship.
Chillicothe clinched its spot opposite Lafayette when Smith got Cameron’s Toby Smith to bounce out to shortstop Hussey for the final out Friday night. Hussey had made a fine play up the middle to retire Jake Forsythe for the second out of the seventh inning three pitches earlier.
Smith, the tall portsider who had entered the game with a 1-5 won-lost record for the year, was more than Cameron could handle once he got locked in.
After two of the first three batters of the game singled off him, he allowed only one more hit – a comeback grounder which slipped between Smith’s feet leading off the third inning. Beginning with a double play started by Hussey following a 1-out walk in the fourth, Smith mowed down the last 11 Dragons batters.
Amazingly, he needed only 64 pitches, according to Figg, to toss the complete-game shutout. He struck out five and walked only one. Four of his five whiffs came on three pitches.
While Smith, supported by errorless defense, did his job on the hill, he needed someone to do something with the bat to get the win. Lauhoff finally filled that bill in the home sixth.
After forceout grounders followed a leadoff walk to Steven Cooper and Dylan Clark’s 1-out single to left in the Chillicothe sixth, Cal Toedebusch drew a walk to load the bases.
Lauhoff then jumped on an 0-1 pitch from tough-luck loser Alex Miholland and ripped a hard grounder to the left of the third baseman and into left field. Austin Minnick followed Hussey home and Smith had his cushion. He knew just what to do with it, too, fanning the first man in the Cameron seventh on three pitches, getting a groundout on Hussey’s nice play on the next offering, and then jumping ahead 0-2 before inducing a routine roller to short to end it.
Lauhoff’s game-winning single capped a perfect game at the plate for the righthanded-swinging right fielder. He walked his first time up, then singled leading off the fifth.
He had two of Chillicothe’s four hits, with Clark and Minnick having the other two. All were singles.
Friday’s first Chillicothe win of the day saw Long set the template Smith would follow.
Long blanked Macon on five hits, using a very economical 76 pitches over seven sharp innings.
Whereas Smith sputtered a bit right out of the gate, Long set down 11 of the first 12 Tigers he faced, working around a leadoff single in the third.
After Chillicothe got only one run out of a big threat in the bottom of the third, Long gave up a 2-outs triple on Craig Smith’s sizzling line drive to left field, but caught a break when Collin Patrick’s following line drive hung up in left-center long enough for Clark to range to his right and make the snag.
A walk and a misplayed 2-outs pop fly that fell in short left field for a single had Long in a jam again in the fifth, but got out of it on a routine popup.
A 1-2-3 sixth put the senior righty in position to finish what he started, but a bloop single over the third baseman’s head to start the seventh seemed like a bad omen.
However, Long and the Hornets caught a break when, as the next batter missed connections on a bunt attempt on the first pitch, the pinch runner at first base strayed way too far from the bag. Catcher Cooper threw behind him to first sacker Minnick, who easily flipped to Toedebusch covering second for the first out.
After a groundout to Hussey put Hornets within an out of victory, an infield hit extended the game, but Long responded with two quick strikes to the next batter. He then induced a looper into short right that Toedebusch raced to his left and made a diving catch on to end the win with pizazz.
For Long, the whitewash saw him strike out only three while walking one. As Smith would be, he was backed by not only flawless fielding, but some very nice plays that made things easier.
The Hornets out-hit Macon 6-5 and could have given their hurler more elbow room.
After putting the first two men on in the second inning, only to pop up into a double play while trying to sacrifice bunt, Chillicothe got a leadoff dou8ble to left-center field from Long to open its third frame against Tigers starting and losing pitcher Brendan Watts.
Trent Moore drew a walk on a close full-count pitch and Cooper was clipped by a 2-2 inside pitch to load the bases with no outs.
Hussey tagged a line drive into left field to score the game’s first – and, it turned out, only – run, plating courtesy runner Brett Young.
With its Nos. 3-5 batters coming up, Chillicothe had all the makings of a huge inning, but Watts had other ideas.
He got the next two batters to chase 2-strike pitches in the dirt for critical strikeouts, then escaped with only the one run of damage with a fly out to right.
The Hornets got two on against him again in the fifth and sixth, but could not add to their cushion. Thanks to Long, they didn’t have to.
As would be the case in the later game against Cameron, Chillicothe’s top hitter vs. Macon was the one who brought home the only scoring. In addition to his RBI single in the third, Hussey had a hit back in the first.
Helping his own cause, Long’s double that led to the contest’s lone run was Chillicothe’s only extra-base blow of the day. He also walked his last time up.