— With a strategic gamble by coach Bob Long not having paid off, the Chillicothe High School tennis Hornets bowed their necks to rally for a pivotal Midland Empire Conference victory at Savannah yesterday. With only four courts to play on, Long and SHS coach Traci Westfall agreed to begin the varsity match with the three doubles sets, so every player would have a chance to play in a set which would have a direct bearing on the eventual result. When Savannah took two of the three doubles sets, Chillicothe needed to rally in singles. The Hornets did to eke out a 5-4 triumph which left them alone atop the MEC team standings with a 4-0 mark. "As the four top players headed out to face their singles opponents, I told them, 'We need them all,'” Long related. Those four – undefeated No. 1 player Gabe Poling, Garrett Peterson, Nate McKiddy, and Brandon Lamp – heeded the call, although it was close. While Poling was moving to 13-0 with an 8-0 win over Craig Helm and Peterson was besting Baxter Krumme 8-4, the Nos. 3 and 4 singles sets were proving less clear-cut. While Lamp jumped off to a 4-0 start at No. 4, McKiddy was dropping behind Chase Furgison at No. 3. With Furgison ahead 6-4, the CHS junior lefthander got locked in and not only came back to get even, but took four games in succession to grab the set 8-6 and move CHS within one set of team victory. "McKiddy and Furgison's match was entertaining to watch,” Long related. “Both players are terrific athletes and mirror images of each other on the tennis court." Shortly after McKiddy concluded his win, Lamp successfully fought off the late comeback try of SHS’ Kennyn Sandy to earn an 8-4 victory and clinch the match win for the defending MEC champions. “Midway through, Gabe and Brandon looked as if they would win, but Garrett and Nate were in tight battles,” recalled Long. “Garrett began to find space and Nate almost always wins the close ones. "Brandon got out a 4-games lead before Savannah's Kennyn Sandy started playing as if he had nothing to lose. However, Nate finished off his mini-comeback and Brandon held off the determined Sandy to secure the conference win.” With the match outcome already decided before the Nos. 5 and 6 singles began with no pressure on any of the players. Savannah ended up winning both, CHS’ Cody Evans losing 4-8 at No. 5 and Lane Bonderer falling 5-8 at No. 6. “Lane played well against the experienced Briley Krumme, bringing the set to as close as 5-6,” noted Long. The triumph over a Savages team which also had entered the day undefeated in MEC competition, lifted the Hornets’ season record in dual matches to 8-1. The outcome again gave Chillicothe a regular-season victory over Savannah, but the Savages turned the tables in district team play a year ago. With district assignments realigned this year, the two teams are in different districts, but appear likely to meet in the sectional-round match of the Class 1 state team tournament. "Coach Traci Westfall has an excellent program and is always gracious in victory or defeat,” Long saluted. Chillicothe’s comeback during singles play yesterday was necessitated by Savannah’s strong performance in doubles. CHS’ Long rearranged his doubles lineup in hopes of squeezing out at least a pair of wins, since, in his words, “singles victories were going to be difficult,” but it didn’t work. In No. 1 play, the first-time pairing of Poling and Lamp proved no match Helm and Furgison as the Savannah tandem romped 8-0. At No. 3, Sandy and Zane Beattie were on their way to dominating Evans and Bonderer 8-3, assuring Cameron of the lead entering singles. That lead turned out to be 2-1 as Peterson and McKiddy, who have been playing No. 1 position most of the season and who had previously bested Baxter and Briley Krumme 8-0 in a recent tournament at Camer-on, topped them again 8-4. "The strategy of using Poling in No. 1 doubles in hopes of securing at least two doubles wins backfired,” acknowledged the CHS coach. In junior-varsity play at Savannah yesterday, Chillicothe won three of seven sets.  Kenneth Morgan and Andrew Smith won in doubles and Max Anderson and Steen Anthony prevailed in singles. The tennis Hornets next are to host Kirksville Tuesday. CHS boys’ golf tourney crown to Cameron Although three Macon Tigers finished with one of the two lowest scores, it was the Cameron Dragons who came away with the team championship of yesterday’s annual Chillicothe Invitational high school boys’ golf tournament. No less than a dozen players toured Green Hills Golf Course in between 79 and 81 strokes in coolly mild, sunny, calm weather, including three each from Cameron and Macon. That essentially left the team title to be decided by those teams’ fourth-best score, which turned out to favor the Dragons, who got an 85 from Sam Morrison to round out their low-4 team score at 327. That was two shots better than Macon, whose fourth-best score was a 90. The tournament medalist, decided via a scorecard playoff between three golfers who fired 79s, was Seth Gladbach of Brookfield. He gained the top spot over Trenton’s Nate Swann and Macon’s Nate Hilker, who each also broke 80. Only one stroke back of that trio were Hamilton’s Wyatt Gregory, Gavin Arnold and Aaron Brown of Macon, and Dakota Persinger of Cameron. Checking in with 81s were Chillicothe sophomore Cade Snyder, Trenton’s Cree Mullenix, Hamilton’s Ethan Green, and Cameron’s Connor Teel and Chase Foreman. With only 10 medals available, scorecard playoffs broke the 5-ways tie with Snyder and Green winding up as the odd-men out. Paced by Snyder’s near-medal-earning round of 41-40, Chillicothe’s team score turned out to be a 363, its second-best 18-holes (or 9-holes equivalent) showing thus far in 2015. That score left them sixth out of the 13 teams (including three “B” teams) participating. All five Hornets in the varsity lineup for yesterday’s home tournament broke 100, although only Snyder shot under 90. Senior Mason Mayers and freshman Hayden Montgomery matched 92s and Trevor Bowling’s 98 completed the scoring quartet. Peyton Moritz shot 99. Chillicothe’s 10-members squad left it with a full second quintet to participate, as well, one of three “B” teams entered. The Hornets’ second entry produced a team score of 455, led by Trey Batye’s 97. Bradley Ogle was next at 106, his best day of the season. Chris Bethel posted a 124, Alex Barnes a 128, and Noah Holland a 140 for CHS. The team standings saw Trenton finish a relatively-close third behind Macon’s 329 with a 338. Hamilton, which had only four entrants, was fourth, five more strokes back at 343, and, led by Gladbach’s medalist round, Brookfield took fifth at 355, eight shots in front of the host Hornets. Chillicothe’s golf boys are entered in today’s Richmond Invitational Tournament. Baseball Hornets belt Benton, earn fifth place ST. JOSEPH — It might not be the old cry of “Spahn, Sain, and pray for rain” which early 1950s Boston Braves fans used to describe their team’s top-heavy starting pitching rotation, but the 2015 Chillicothe High School Hornets certainly are enjoying the recent back-to-back work of their own lefty-righty combination of senior Austin Minnick and sophomore Gunnar Leach. Yesterday, in the fifth-place game of the annual Pony Ex-press Tournament, Leach – for the second time in a week – followed A. Minnick’s complete-game win of the day before with one of his own, this time pitching CHS past host St. Jo-seph Benton 9-1. After limiting the damage from a potential big Benton third inning to a single tally, Leach locked the Cardinals down the rest of the afternoon at the Bartlett Park field. While he did that, Hornets hitters got it going, producing nine unanswered runs in two crooked-number explosions to claim the satisfying victory. After Dylan Clark’s 2-outs single scored Derek Hussey to tie the game in the bottom of the third inning, Chillicothe senior catcher Jared Lauhoff lashed a bases-full, 2-outs, 2-run single to right-center two batters later and the Hornets were in front to stay. Leach preserved the 3-1 advantage until the bottom of the sixth when Chillicothe broke the game open. A leadoff error on a tap to the pitcher by Tanner Lent set up Lauhoff’s second RBI hit of the day, a single to right which made it 4-1. After a walk and another Benton miscue loaded the bases, CHS caved the walls in on Benton. Hussey waited out a walk to force in a run and Cal Toedebusch pulled the first pitch he saw through the left side of the infield for a 2-runs single and 7-1 Hornets lead. Shayler Keller knocked out reliever Noah Robertson, who had taken over from starter/loser Eli Baig back in the third, with an RBI single. Austin Minnick lifted a foul fly ball down the left field line on which Toedebusch tagged and scored to complete the 6-runs inning. Leach returned to the hill with the now-sizable lead and set Benton down in order to end it. The sophomore righthander, who shut out Marshall in an 8-innings, 1-0 triumph last Saturday in the Marshall Invitational, again did not walk a batter and yielded only five hits. Improving his personal won-lost mark to 2-2 while the team moved to 6-7, he struck out three and did not hit anyone. He needed only 74 pitches to go the distance, 55 of them strikes. Lauhoff’s two hits and three runs knocked in paced the 8-hits Chillicothe offense. Each team erred twice. The diamond Hornets now are idle until next Tuesday when they’ll host St. Joseph: Lafayette in a Midland Empire Conference contest. They lost to the Fighting Irish 3-2 in eight innings in non-league action two weeks ago. Following that, Chillicothe will host its own 4-teams, round-robin tournament April 30 and May 2. Soccer Lady Hornets get past Excelsior Springs Strong backfield and midfield play limited visiting Excelsior Springs’ damage to a single goal and forwards Lindy Saunders and Karson Keithley combined to create all of their scoring as the soccer Lady Hornets of Chillicothe High School registered a 3-1 home win at Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium II Thursday afternoon. The conquest boosted Chillicothe’s season record to 7-3-1. Midway through the first half, according to CHS head coach Lance Harvey, senior forward Lindy Saunders pushed through the Excelsior Springs defense and slid a pass to a charging Karson Keithley, who finished with a hard shot over the goalkeeper. A few minutes later, the two forwards switched roles with Keithley delivering to Saunders, who found the left side of the net, Harvey related. Ten minutes into the second half, Keithley found Saunders again with the Lady Tigers' 'keeper out of position. Saunders fired in her second goal of the match and team-best 13th of 2015 to make it 3-0. The Hornets continued to put pressure on offensively, while the defense of Hallee Jones, Baily Fox, Morgan Grable and Jozie Reeter thwarted all but one of the Excelsior attacks, Harvey reports. CHS goalkeeper Jaylene Sturguess was outstanding, making several key saves in the game, he says. Along with the stellar defensive play, Harvey also noted the relentless midfield presence of Sam Baldwin, Mariah Cox, Hannah Jones, and Harlie Jones as instrumental in the victory. "The Lady Hornets' defense was impressive, holding Excelsior Springs scoreless for the first 70 minutes of play and triggering several counterattacks that led to our three goals," Harvey comments. "Offensively, we used our superior speed to beat the Tigers’ "offside trap" defense. Without (the midfielders’) tenacity out there, we don’t come away with this win.” In junior-varsity play, Excelsior Springs came out on top 2-0. The soccer Lady Hornets are back on the road today, playing at Kirksville at 4:30 p.m. in an attempt to win their third match this week.