Advance to championship round of Missouri Districts 1-2 Tournament against Kirksville/Moberly club Sunday, July 16, after big losers'-bracket wins over Green City, Trenton Saturday
TRENTON, Mo. — Their backs to the wall Saturday, the Chillicothe Cardinals senior (AAA) American Legion baseball delivered just the types of performances they needed July 15 to give themselves their best chance at still claiming the 2017 Districts 1-2 Tournament championship and a berth in this coming week’s Zone 1 Tournament at Washington, Mo.
Stunned by an unexpected, inefficient first-round loss to the host Trenton Bluejays Friday, the Cardinals returned to Burleigh Grimes Field Saturday afternoon and sent Green City and then Trenton packing.
An 18-0, 7-innings victory over Green City in the losers’-bracket semifinal and a 12-5 revenge triumph against Trenton in the losers’ final put the top-seeded Cardinals in Sunday’s championship round against Kirksville/Moberly. The first of two possible games is slated to start at noon with a second game, if required by a Chillicothe win in the noon contest, to follow shortly.
Kirksville/Moberly’s Sixers, the district’s dominant team for the better part of two decades, defeated Trenton in the winners’ final Saturday after besting Green City Friday. That leaves the Sixers one win from the title.
During this year’s regular season, Chillicothe won two, lost one, and tied one against Kirksville/Moberly, capturing both first-string games which counted in the district standings.
With that background and the fact that, despite having played one more game than the Sixers, the Cardinals will have their two best pitchers – Gunnar Leach and Tristen Sewell – available to throw nine or more innings on Sunday and probably their No. 3 hurler – Drew Toedebusch – still with several innings available to him, if needed for relief, Chillicothe’s prosects of beating the odds and emerging from the losers’ bracket to be champion are better than often would figure to be the case in that scenario.
That doesn’t mean defeating a fresher Kirksville/Moberly club will be anything but difficult.
Helping Chillicothe’s chances Sunday – as it did Saturday – will be the availability of one of its most-veteran players, outfielder Austin Murray. Not yet back from a family trip when the Cardinals fell to Trenton in the first round Friday, he was on hand Saturday and should be Sunday. That’s an important factor defensively if/when T. Sewell – who has played center field following Ty Figg’s recent departure for the Chillicothe Mudcats – is needed to pitch. Murray will be able to slide over and play center in that case.
Saturday, with their season on the line, the Cardinals responded with a vengeance after Friday’s disappointment.
They jumped Green City’s Express for five runs in the bottom of the first inning and never looked back. They effectively put the win on ice with nine more tallies in the third and plated their last four in the fifth.
All the while, Leach and – after the first out of the second inning – Toedebusch shuttered the Express attack on four hits.
With the huge lead, Leach was able to be saved for Sunday and, by ending things on the 10-runs-lead rule after the minimum seven innings, Toedebusch worked only 52⁄3 after going 12⁄3 in relief against Trenton Friday.
If American Legion baseball pitching-limit rules (12 innings in any three consecutive days) have not been changed from the past, Leach still would be available for 102⁄3 innings Sunday and Toedebusch for another 42⁄3. For his part, T. Sewell has yet to throw in the tourney, so he’d have his full complement.
Chillicothe’s offense against Green City included 13 hits, six bases on balls, and two hit batsmen. The Express helped out with six errors.
Individually, leadoff man Leach went three for four, incluing two doubles, with three runs batted in. Chase Minnick broke out of a long slump with two singles and a double and Jordan Miller and Carson Wilkerson drove in three runs each.
Toedebusch earned the win with his 4-hits, 4-strikeouts shutout relief.
Saturday’s game against Trenton looked a good bit like Friday’s through 41⁄2 innings before Chillicothe took charge.
Again playing as the visitors, despite being on their home field, Trenton’s Post 31 Bluejays jumped ahead 2-0 in the opening half-inning and then closed a Chillicothe 6-2 lead to one run with a 3-runs third.
While the Cardinals tacked on another run in their third, the game still was anyone’s to win at 7-5 in the middle of the fifth.
The No. 1 seed made the key move in its fifth, striking for three add-on runs after Bluejays starting pitcher TC East retired the first two batters.
Jordan Miller followed walks to Toedebusch and starting pitcher Tanner Lent with a 2-runs double to left, making it 9-5. T. Sewell pulled a hit to right to make it a 5-runs game.
With Braymer’s Miller having taken over on the bump to start the top of the fifth, he fashioned a second-consecutive scoreless inning in the sixth on his way to gaining the winning decision.
His teammates then upped the ante on the fading Bluejays with two more runs in the home sixth when, following Toedebusch’s 2-outs double that moved Ben Jones to third, both scored on the same wild pitch.
After Miller got the first out of the Trenton seventh, Konner Sewell was brought in to pitch and worked the last 12⁄3 innings, allowing no runs on one hit.
Saturday’s losers’ final actually saw Trenton, the defending district-tourney champion, out-hit Chillicothe 9-7 with each side having three errors. A key factor in tilting the game the Cardinals’ way was the nine walks and five hit batsmen it received. Chillicothe hurlers walked only four and hit but one.
Individually, T. Sewell swung the big bat early in the game. He finished three for four with four runs driven in. Quinn Brown of Hamilton led the Bluejays with three hits.