Marshall Lady Owls avenge 2016 district finals loss to CHS, unloading three home runs at Boonville Saturday. Chillicothe ends season 18-7
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
BOONVILLE, Mo. — A year ago, Marshall’s Lady Owls needed a little old single with two outs in the seventh inning to tie or win their high school girls’ softball district-tournament championship game with Chillicothe’s Lady Hornets. When instead, Chillicothe fielded a bases-full ground ball and recorded the game’s last out, CHS secured the district crown and went on to the Missouri Class 3 state tournament.
Saturday afternoon, the Lady Owls powered up to make sure things didn’t come down to a final swing of the bat in their district-title rematch with CHS.
Marshall’s No. 3, 4 and 5 batters in the lineup each pounded a home run – two of them with a runner aboard – to propel the Lady Owls to a 6-2 triumph in the District 13 tourney on the Boonville High School field.
The result ended Chillicothe’s very good 2017 season with a record of 18-7. Marshall, the tourney’s No 1 seed, heads on to state this year at 17-8.
For CHS, the game concluded the prep diamond careers of seven Lady Hornets, five of whom were full-time starter this fall. This year’s seniors included McKenna Poling, Maddi Graham, Harlie Jones, Molly Jones, Jylian Davis, Gracie Ellis, and Taylor Wilkison.
Entering with a 5-games winning streak, defending-champion Chillicothe didn’t cash in on a scoring chance in the top of the first inning and never could get a handle on things thereafter.
WIth runners at first and third bases with one down in the first, following a game-opening infield single by Libby Adkins, a sophomore, and 1-out, 4-pitches walk to classmate Abby Jones, the Lady Hornets fouled out to the catcher and grounded out to strand them.
By the time CHS swung the bat again, it was behind and destined to stay there.
In the bottom of the first, Ashley Davison of Marshall sharply singled up the middle on starting and losing pitcher Davis’ first pitch.The CHS righthander (9-2) rebounded to retire the next two batters, but Lady Owls cleanup batter Taylor Crawford tied into a center-cut delivery and ripped 200-plus feet and over the fence in straightaway left field for a 2-0 lead.
When Marshall tagged two more hard-hit singles in the second inning, Davis was lifted in favor of Mo. Jones, who got the last out of the inning to keep it 2-0.
However, the middle of the MHS lineup caused more consternation in the third, doubling its cushion to four runs, again with one, 2-outs swing of the bat. After walking Crawford on a 3-2 pitch, Mo. Jones made the first delivery to designated playrs Avery Brooks – the girl whose bases-full groundout had ended last year’s title game – too sweet. Brooks drove the ball straightaway to center field and just over the fence.
Behind 4-0, Chillicothe was on the spot, but also confident, knowing it had been scoring runs in big bunches during the 5-games winning streak.
When it caught a break on Jordan Hibner’s infield hit leading off the top of the fifth – a photo showed the throw from the third baseman nipped her to first, Chillicothe had its first real bit of good fortune. The second followed immediately.
Laney Gaston laid down a good sacrifice bunt and as the throw went to first base to retire hurt, Hibner – daringly, considering the score – rounded second base and headed for uncovered third. As the MHS left fielder raced toward the bag, the first baseman’s throw across the diamond was too high. It went over the outfielder’s head and into foul territory down the left-field line, letting Hibner to not only reach third, but score Chillicothe’s first run.
After the second out was recorded, H. Jones sliced a sinking line drive to left-center field that dipped under the center fielder’s lunging catch attempt and rolled deep for a double. However, a few pitches into A. Jones’ at-bat, H. Jones tried to steal third and, despite a tag on her helmet, was called out, a ruling which might have unintentionally balanced the call on Hibner.
Before Chillicothe could try to sustain its offensive momentum, Marshall squelched it with another big, 2-outs blow.
After Mo. Jones recorded her third and fourth strikeouts back to back to open the home fifth, she made a pitch too good for MHS No. 3 batter Rileigh Massey. Her line drive to left just sneaked over the barrier for the Lady Owls’ third home run of the day and a 5-1 lead.
Down to their last six outs, but with the top of their batting order starting the sixth, the Lady Hornets sought to light the fuse on a big inning that might put them back on close terms or even.
A. Jones laced a single over the head of the third baseman and hustled into second base safely when the ball was booted in the outfield. Sister Molly then spanked a sharp single on the ground to the left of the shortstop. With the center fielder having to come in and well to her right to get to the bass, A. Jones was sent home and scored easily. However, the MHS outfielder unwisely threw home far too late, allowing Mo. Jones to advance to second uncontested.
With no outs, Chillicothe had its No. 5-7 batters coming up and a runner in scoring position. A hit or two, particularly if one happened to be a long ball, would have them with a run or two, but none came.
Instead, after a grounder to third let Mo. Jones advance to third on the first out, Poling’s vicious line drive was pulled right at the Marshall third baseman, who speared it about head-high and easily stepped over to the bag to double off the CHS runner.
That, more or less, sealed the Lady Hornets’ fate. In the bottom of the inning, they mimicked Marshall’s earlier misadventure on sacrifice-bunt defense, throwing the ball over the head of an on-the-move fielder trying to cover third while a Marshall baserunner tried to go first-to-third on a bunt. The wild throw let a sixth Marshall marker cross the plate and CHS went down in order in the top of the seventh, setting off a Marshall celebration.