Now Districts 1-2-leading 5-0 after handling Green City 8-1 in 2017 home finale
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
In what likely was their final home game of 2017 – and, for some multi-years veterans of both Chillicothe Legion and high school play, their last-ever action at “June” Shaffer Memorial Park stadium, the Chillicothe Cardinals senior (AAA) American Legion baseball team on Tuesday night solidified its grip on the top seeding for the approaching Districts 1-2 tournament with an 8-1 triumph over the Green City Express.
Gunnar Leach’s route-going mound effort, which featured no walks, only three hits allowed, and seven strikeouts, was backed by Tanner Lent’s three hits, four runs batted in game.
Green City claimed Tuesday’s non-district, second game 4-2, leaving Chillicothe with an overall 10-4-1 record.
With the game one victory, however, the senior Cardinals hiked their record in district home-and-home, round-robin play this summer to 5-0. With each of the other five teams (Green City, Trenton, North Central Missouri, Moberly, Hannibal) unofficially having all sustained at least two district losses to date, that means are closing in on earning the No. 1 slot in next month’s district tournament bracket. That tourney is to be played at Trenton, the C-T has been informed.
The Districts 1-2 tournament champion will advance to the state’s Zone 1 Tournament at Washington, Cardinals manager Brent Minnick has learned.
Following up on their 7-5 win over long-time district rival Moberly (now technically based out of Kirksville) last Thursday, the Cardinals poured a steady stream of runs on first-year district member Green City in Tuesday’s first game.
After Lent singled home Ty Figg for a 1-0 lead in the first, Chillicothe quadrupled its runs total in the second inning.
Jordan Miller led off with the first of his two hits and Chase Minnick and Austin Murray drew 1-out walks. When a pitch hit Figg, it forced home a run, as did the subsequent walk to Leach. Lent then lifted a scoring fly ball to center to make it 4-0.
Basehits by Miller, Ben Jones, and Murray in the third boosted the margin to 5-0 and two singles and a walk in the fourth were followed by a bases-full balk which increased the Cardinals’ margin to 6-0.
The visiting Express finally got a bit of something off righthander Leach in the top of the fifth, capitalizing on a Chillicothe fielding error on the first batter to eventually score on a ground ball to third.
The Cardinals got that right back plus one in their half of the fifth. With two outs, Lent banged a double past the left fielder to score Minnick and Leach.
Leach used only 87 pitches in going the 7-innings distance.
The 5-innings second game found Green City more effective, both offensively and in pitching.
Express hurler Cody Amen spaced out eight Chillicothe hits to the extent that only two Cardinals crossed home plate – both in the fifth inning on a Carson Wilkerson single.
Meanwhile, the visitors put up single runs in the first and fifth and two runs in the second against Cardinals pitchers Figg and Jones, even though they were limited to only five hits. The Chillicothe hurlers issued seven damaging walks.
Lent singled in his only at-bat in game two, giving him a 4-for-5 evening with the stick.