Leach's strong pitching, 2-outs scoring keyed 3-2 CHS non-conference victory at Savannah

SAVANNAH, Mo. — Strong pitching by one of their veteran hurlers and timely, 2-outs hitting and opportunistic baserunning carried Chillicothe High School’s baseball Hornets to a 2017 season-opening, 3-2 road victory over the Savannah Savages Friday.
The triumph, which featured a typical, distance-going effort on the hill by senior righthander Gunnar Leach and all of the CHS runs scoring with two outs, presented new skipper Canaan Fairley with a win in his head-coaching career.
The baseball Hornets turn right around and, weather permitting, play away from home again today and tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. Today’s action at Lawson is expected to have Ty Figg, another senior righty, as Chillicothe’s starting pitcher. Senior lefthander Tristen Sewell is slated for tomorrow’s start at Richmond, Fairley informed the C-T.
Friday’s non-conference lid-lifter at fellow Midland Empire Conference member Savannah, played in uncommonly-nice weather for a mid-March opener, saw Chillicothe not only edge the Savages on the scoreboard, but also out-hit them 8-3 with seven separate batters contributing, according to CHS statistics provided by the coach.
The Hornets broke the scoring ice in the top of the third inning with a single tally, then answered two SHS runs in the bottom of that inning with an equal number in the visitors’ fourth.
From there, Leach kept triumph out of the Savages’ reach, although he did have an opponent reach base safely and thus represent the potential tying run, in each of the last three innings.
In the home fifth, Noah Bodenhausen reached on a 2-outs error, but was cut down trying to steal second by CHS senior catcher Chase Minnick.
The sixth saw SHS leadoff man Chase Spoonemore single past shortstop and advance to second on a sacrifice bunt. A 1-out grounder to second moved him to third as the second out was recorded, but Leach froze him there by getting the Savannah cleanup hitter to fly out to left field.
Still up by a whisker going to the bottom of the seventh, the CHS righthander gave out a 1-out base on balls – his only free pass of the day. The courtesy runner at first didn’t budge as Leach fired 5-straight strikes to Corbin Dreyer, who fouled off a pair of 0-2 offerings before watching a called third strike, and then Dakota Spien lined the next delivery to freshman right fielder Jaden Winder for the final out.
The game’s eventually-decisive run scored via a strikeout in the Chillicothe fourth.
With one out and Savannah having just claimed a 2-1 lead the previous half-inning on a pair of singles and a 2-outs error, Hornets senior infielder Zach Trout grounded a seemingly-innocent single past the second baseman.
With a 2-1 count on Winder, losing relief pitcher Drew Duane was called for a balk, putting Trout in scoring position.
After working the count full and fouling off two 3-2 pitches, the CHS ninth grader hit a sharp grounder that the SHS shortstop could not throw him out on. However, running with the crack of the bat on the 3-2 pitch, Trout was waved around third and toward home as the infielder tried to corral the ball.
As Winder alertly headed for second base, the throw to try to catch Trout at home plate got away. That not only allowed the tying run to score, but Winder kept pedaling and raced all the way to third base by the time the ball was recovered.
That secondary advancement proved most critical when the next Chillicothe batter swung and missed on a 2-2 pitch which eluded the SHS receiver. While T. Sewell dashed to first base safely, Winder came down the line from third to dent the dish and the Hornets had reclaimed the upper hand, 3-2.
The first scoring of the 2017 season came in more-conventional style, but also involved 2-outs productivity and generating the opportunity with the Hornets’ feet and legs as much as with the bat.
With one down in the third, speedy Chillicothe leadoff man Figg legged out an infield hit after hitting a sharp comebacker to starting pitcher Colton Blanchard. Then, as the first pitch went to the next batter, Figg zipped to second base with one of the Hornets’ four stolen bases.
Still at second with two outs, Figg waited as classmate Tanner Lent fouled away three 2-2 pitches before finding a juicy serving and ripping a line-drive, RBI double down the left field line.
Savannah, after having its first seven batters of the day retired, got to Leach with the bottom of its lineup in the bottom half of the frame.
Spien’s 1-out single to center was followed by a Bodenhausen bunt to the first-base side of the mound on which the Hornets retired no one. Leach then threw off-line to second base on a pickoff attempt, allowing the lead man to advance 90 feet.
A grounder to freshman third baseman Westley Brandsgaard resulted in an out at first as the tying run scored and the trail runner moved up to second. When the next batter tapped back to the CHS hurler, who threw the ball away at first, Bodenhausen came home from second to give Savannah the brief lead.
Statistically, Figg was the only player to collect more than one hit. In addition to his infield hit in the third, he pulled a hard grounder through the hole into left with two outs in the seventh.
Lent’s run-scoring double was the game’s only extra-base hit. Collecting singles for CHS beyond those already noted were Austin Murray, Minnick, and Leach.
On the mound, Leach was his normal, strikes-throwing self while not allowing any earned runs (although it was his own two throwing errors that led to both). He started 19 of the 26 SHS batters in the game with strikes and threw 65 total among his 92 deliveries, an important consideration with Missouri this year having adopted a national pitches limit for hurlers.
Leach notched five strikeouts and eight of the other 15 outs he earned came on ground balls.
After Chillicothe’s varsity gained a 1-run win in its 2017 debut Friday, the junior-varsity Hornets suffered a 2-1 loss.
CHS tied the game with an unearned run in the top of the fifth and final inning, but Savannah scored in the bottom half to end the contest.
The Chillicothe jayvees had three hits – all singles. No information was received on who did their pitching.
M      3/20    Lawson    A    4:30
Tu     3/21    Richmond    A    4:30
Th    3/23    Trenton    A    4:30
M     3/27    Macon    H    5:00
Tu    3/28    SJ: Lafayette (9th)    A    4:30
Th    3/30    SJ: Bishop LeBlond    H    4:30
Tu    4/4    SJ: Benton    H    4:30
W     4/5    SJ: Lafayette    H    4:30
W     4/5    Maryville (9th)    H    4:30
F-S   4/7-8    Marshall Tournament (V)    A    TBA
W     4/12    Cameron    A    4:30
M-S  4/17-22    Pony Express Tournament (V) @St. Joseph   TBA
M     4/17    Savannah (9th)    A    4:30
W     4/19    Northwestern (JV)    H    4:30
Th    4/20    Cameron (9th)    H    4:30
M     4/24    SJ: Benton (9th)    A    4:30
Tu    4/25    SJ: Lafayette    A    4:30
Th-S 4/27-29    Hornet Classic (V)    H    TBA
Tu    5/2    Maryville    A    4:30
Th    5/4    SJ: Benton    A    4:30
M     5/8    Savannah    H    4:30
Tu    5/9    Smithville    H    4:30
S-Th 5/13-18    District Tournament (V)     TBA
Tu    5/23    State Sectional (V)    TBA
Th    5/25    State Quarterfinal (V)     TBA
F-S   6/2-3    State Tournament (V)    A
All dates are varsity/junior-varsity doubleheaders except where noted