St. Joseph: Lafayette snior righthander no-hits CHS in wet district tourney final
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — A year ago, when the top-seeded Chillicothe High School baseball Hornets were upset by St. Joseph: Lafayette – a team the Hornets had twice defeated during the regular season –in the semifinals of the Class 4 District 16 Tournament, the tone was set by the bat of a LHS junior.
As the game’s first batter, Tyler Arrowood laced a triple over the head of the Chillicothe left fielder, scoring moments later on a sacrifice fly. He later would add another single and walk twice as Lafayette posted a 7-4 victory that ended the Hornets’ season.
Wednesday evening (May 17, 2018), again at St. Joseph’s Phil Welch Stadium, but this time in the district championship game, it was Arrowood’s right arm, not his bat, that made certain Chillicothe – beaten twice previously by LHS’ Fighting Irish – did not flip the script from 2017.
Despite having a 2-hours break between pitches, due to a rain delay, the now-senior fired a complete-game no-hitter, striking out 10 Hornets, as the Irish, the tourney’s No. 1 seed, edged Chillicothe 1-0 for the crown.
For the Hornets, it not only was a season-ending defeat, but the second time they had been no-hit in three games. Smithville’s Michael Tyhurst and Kellen Simoncic had combined on one eight days before.
On each side of the long delay – which consumed as much or more time than actual play did, Arrowood retired 14 consecutive CHS batters. He finished by fanning the side in the top of the seventh inning after the potent-ial tying run had reached base on a leadoff walk, the last of only four Hornets baserunners.
That Lafayette had a lead for him to protect at the end was the result of Lafayette luck, execution, and speed that turned two batted balls that together didn’t travel 60 feet into the contest’s only tally.
With CHS sophomore right-hander Wes Brandsgaard throwing well, even if not quite as well as Arrowood, and prospering on both sides of the interruption, too, the north St. Joseph team had the bottom third of its lineup slated to bat in the home half of the fifth inning of the 0-0 game.
When Brandsgaard retired No. 7 hitter Tyson Koch, who was the Irish’s cleanup man in last year’s district game, on a routine fly ball to center field, it created the opportunity for an “easy” inning, since the Hornets hurler had fanned the Nos. 8 and 9 men on called third strikes the first time he faced them.
However, in a smart play, given the softened ground conditions from the rain, righthanded swinging No. 8 batter Bailey Hazelrigg hooked a bunt about 25 feet toward the third base side of the field. While the Hornets got to it in time to possibly get him at first with an on-line throw, the rushed peg with the grass-dampened ball caused first baseman Trace Staton to have to jump to catch it. By the time he landed, Hazelrigg was a half-step across the bag with a 1-out bunt single.
On the second pitch to the next batter, freshman Jadan Little, Hazelrigg’s “wheels” again came into play as he stole second easily, despite the softened track. While the throw skipped into center field, Hazelrigg, who would have beaten the play anyway even if the throw was on target, stayed at second. Briefly.
A pitch or two later, guarding the plate with two strikes, Little reached out and tapped the ball softly up the first-base side, again going perhaps 25-30 feet. By the time, Brandsgaard and catcher Jadan Winder again converged on it, the batter was nearly to first and, with Hazelrigg arriving at third, there was no logic in risking a throw there that, if it was wild, might allow Hazelrigg to score.
So, without hitting the ball halfway to the mound, Lafayette had two hits in a row and runners at the corners with one out for the top of its lineup.
Although it clearly seemed unlikely by then that the Hornets would score more than a run off Arrowood, the coaching decision by Chillicothe was to play its middle infielders at double-play depth, rather than in at the edge of the grass, which would give them the option to throw home on a slower-speed grounder or perhaps influence the runner at third to stay put.
When Cole Slibowski, the Irish leadoff hitter who had singled sharply his second time up right before the rain hit, stepped in and rapped a ground ball right at CHS shortstop Drew Toedebusch. Unfortunately for the Hornets, the wet grass slowed it, taking away any chance of trying for a double play via second base. With Hazelrigg off with the crack of the bat, Toedebusch’s only option was to throw to first base, where his peg barely nipped the batter. Even gaining the out, Chillicothe had fallen behind 1-0. Not surprisingly, given how Arrowood had been pitching, they stayed there.
The only time CHS (13-11) advanced someone beyond first base also was the only time it had more than one baserunner in an inning.
Playing as the visitors, the Hornets got Toedebusch on via a 2-outs walk in the first inning. Welch Stadium’s thick infield grass, slow even before the rain -coated grass and softened dirt beneath it made it even slower, dragged enough speed of Winder’s subsequent ground ball up the middle that the LHS shortstop, – realizing he might not have a chance for a force play at second – rushed his attempt to glove the ball and throw to first. Doing so, he missed a clean connection with the ball for the game’s only error.
With a chance to draw first blood before it became clear how tough Arrowood would be this day, Chillicothe could not, another grounder to short becoming an inning-ending out at first.
Brandsgaard never had a 1-2-3 inning until the bottom of the sixth, but still spent most of the game controlling the Irish bats.
He allowed an opposite-field slicing double to Arrowood with two outs in the first, but got the next man on a deep, but routine, fly ball to right.
In the second, a 1-out single was quickly erased on a 6-3 twin-killing as Koch’s solid grounder led Toedebusch right to the bag at second.
When play resumed after the approximately 1:45 rain delay, Slibowski advanced from first to second on a wild pitch, but a grounder went right to Staton at first to leave him on.
In still a 0-0 game, Brands-gaard walked Nick Ryan, who had tripled twice off him in the teams’ first 2018 meeting at the same location, with two outs A couple of offerings later, a sharp grounder back through the middle of the diamond was speared on the backhand on the move by CHS second baseman Bradley Riley only a stride from the base. The forceout sent the contest to the fifth still even.
Only when Lafayette stopped hitting the ball that sharply and that far in the next inning did any scoring happen. Even though it turned out to be very little scoring, it proved enough for the favorites to move on to the state tournament.
Statistically, Lafayette out-hit Chillicothe 5-0 with each of LHS’ safeties coming from different batters. Tough-luck loser Brandsgaard walked only one man and fanned four while allowing only six batters to reach base.
Although it narrowly missed its second trip ever to state play, Chillicothe – with only four seniors – had back-to-back winning seasons for only the third time in the 22 years its program has been in existence. The 28 victories over the 2017-18 campaigns is second-most in consecutive seasons.
After having only seven years of twin-digits victories in their first 17 seasons, the diamond Hornets now have had five years in a row of at least 10 wins.
Not surprisingly, given the lack of varsity starting experience at season’s start, 2018 was an up-and-down year.
After winning their first four games, the Hornets had a 5-games losing streak in midseason, falling to 6-7. They quickly reversed that with a 5-games winning string before losing three of their last five.
The team’s seniors were Konner Sewell, Isaiah Boon, Toedebusch, and Staton.