Soccer Hornets blanked Fighting Irish 3-0 Tuesday (Sept. 4) in 2018 home opener after softball Lady Hornets pounded out 10-6 triumph in home debut
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Making their first home appearances of 2018 Tuesday, the Chillicothe High School soccer Hornets and softball Lady Hornets registered their first triumphs of the very young season at the expense of St. Joseph: Lafayette.
Starting four freshmen, including at pitcher and catcher, the softball Lady Hornets (1-1, 1-0 conf.) shrugged off a startling beginning to pelt the Lady Irish with six runs in the bottom half of the first inning and never trailed again in a 10-6 Midland Empire Conference victory.
Kicking off their home slate a half-hour later than the first pitch of the softball action, the soccer Hornets allowed the Fighting Irish few offensive openings and sophomore forward Mason Baxter posted his second 2-goals match of the early going in a 3-0 CHS win. Senior goalkeeper Daniel Hedrick earned his first varsity shutout in his third start.
Next for the Chillicothe booters (1-2) will be participation in the Excelsior Springs Tournament today and Saturday.
The diamond girls have a week off before hosting Cameron in another MEC contest.
[SOCCER] Chillicothe 3, St. Joseph: Lafayette 0
The soccer Hornets controlled their match throughout, out-shooting Lafayette 11-2 and having a 4-2 advantage in corner kicks.
Shut out its last three halves, Chillicothe ended that scoring drought fairly quickly.
In the 12th minute, senior back Jake Chapman set up Baxter for his first goal of the day. To that time, all three CHS goals this season had been scored by the 10th grader.
Near the end of the opening half, Baxter extended his solo goal-scoring act, winning a goal-mouth scramble for a loose Brennan Munson throw-in.
Getting his right knee or inner thigh on the bouncing ball seven yards from the LHS goal, the Chillicothe sophomore got it past the Irish goalkeeper who was trying collect the sphere to defuse the threat. Less than four minutes away from halftime, the Hornets’ lead had doubled to 2-0.
Shortly after second-half play commenced, Chillicothe put the heat on the Lafayette defense several times and finally got a payoff from someone other than Baxter.
With the ball on the offensive right half of the pitch and about 45 yards from the Irish goal, freshman Chace Corbin maneuvered a ball into open space, then fed a pass behind the LHS backs toward the left (east) side of Bob Fairchild Field.
Running onto it was a classmate, Drake Cosgrove, who caught up to it about 20-25 yards from the net. As Cosgrove touched the ball ahead a few yards, the Lafayette netminder charged out, trying to cut down Cosgrove’s shooting angle for the net and either get a piece of the anticipated shot or influence the Hornet to either shoot wide or try to pass the ball.
In essentially a 1-on-1 showdown with the ’keeper, Cosgrove delivered a left-footed kick 12 yards from the net. His aim was accurate, slipping the ball past the lunging goalie and into the vacant net in the 43rd overall minute.
The assist by C. Corbin was his third already this season.
[SOFTBALL] Chillicothe 10, St. Joseph: Lafayette 6
The very youthful softball Lady Hornets and first-time starting pitcher Halle Rucker showed surprising resiliency while facing their more-experienced foe.
Lafayette’s first batter of the game, Baylee Hoffman, sent a sizzling skimmer on the ground into right field for an apparent single. However, as the ball reached the start of the outfield grass, it caught a clump of grass and altered its path to the degree that the right fielder, hurrying to her left to get in front of the ball, could not stop and retrace her steps in time to keep the ball from skipping all the way to the fence for a triple.
That brought up senior shortstop MaKayla Salsbury, who found a high, 2-2 pitch very much to her liking. The righthanded batter – like Hoffman a freshman starter on Lafayette’s state third-place finishers in 2015 – sent a high line drive to straightaway center field. It didn’t land until it had sailed over the Daryl Danner Memorial Park “red” field temporary fence 200 feet away for a 2-runs home run.
Only eight pitches into her first varsity starter, frosh Rucker could have been excused for becoming at least a bit unnerved by the back-to-back triple-home run salvo, but she remained calm.
She responded by striking out the next LHS batter and, after allowing two more singles, worked out of the new danger by inducing an infield popup and groundout to third baseman Dawsyn Lightner, another of CHS’ four ninth grade starters in the game.
As the Lady Hornets prepared to take their first hacks of the contest against Lafayette senior righthander Bianca Vice, they were hoping they could approach their nine hits of their season-opening loss at Lawson last week.
They not only did, they bettered it by one, but – more importantly – bunched hits with some faulty Lady Irish fielding to not only produce 10 hits, but an equal number of runs.
They wasted no time in showing they, like their pitcher, were going to give Lafayette a battle.
Chillicothe leadoff batter Libby Adkins flicked a leadoff single to center field and, after a strikeout, stole second base. When junior shortstop Abby Jones followed with the first of her four hits in the game, the Lady Hornets had a chance to cut into the Lady Irish lead.
With one swing of the bat, they did more than that. They erased it.
Freshman catcher Mika Hibner, getting her first starter after sophomore Lexi Walker drew the nod at Lawson and went one for two with the bat, fell behind on the count at 0-2. The righthander CHS batter didn’t take a defensive swing on 0-2, though, instead squaring up Vice’s next offering and driving it in the air to right-center field. Helped a bit by a tailwind, M. Hibner’s blow kept going until it also cleared the fence for a 3-runs homer that suddenly jumped the Lady Hornets into their first lead of 2018.
The unexpected “big fly” seemed to juice the CHS squad and shake the St. Joseph team.
After the second out was recorded, junior Kennedy Corzette stroked a single to right-center and aggressively sped to third base on sophomore Brooke Horton’s pop fly that landed safely just behind shortstop.
Advancing the extra base paid extra dividends as Horton alertly moved in to second base unchallenged when Lafayette tried to throw out Corzette going to third.
Because of that, a wild pitch while Rucker batted allowed Corzette to dash home with a fourth run of the inning and left Horton hugging third. She soon scored when Rucker’s sharply-struck grounder to second base was booted.
Ahead 5-2, Chillicothe kept the heat on under the mostly-cloudy skies.
Courtesy runner Julia Stimpson stole second base and then third without a throw as Lightner watched a full-count pitch miss for ball four.
That put slap-hitting leadoff girl Adkins in the batter’s box for a second time in the opening frame.
She spanked a hard 1-hopper right back at the pitcher, who had it go in and out of her glove and roll back toward home plate about 15-20 feet. Although she scrambled after it quickly and turned and threw accurately to first, the lefthanded batter beat the ball there by a slender margin, thus allowing Stimpson to dent the dish with a sixth Chillicothe run of the first inning.
While that would not have been quite enough to ultimately provide victory, it did give the Lady Hornets the momentum and confidence to keep a solid upper hand.
Even another 2-runs home run by Lafayette in the second inning – this time by Hoffman – could not jangle Rucker’s or her teammates’ nerves.
Ahead 6-4 as they came to bat in the third, the Lady Hornets reclaimed their earlier 4-runs advantage before increasing it in the fourth.
Some 2-outs lightning struck Lafayette in the bottom of the third, once again aided and abetted by its defensive woes.
With no one aboard, Adkins accepted a 4-pitches walk. Shen zipped to third when Sophia Luetticke, Chillicothe’s fourth freshman starter, reached on an error.
Following a steal of second by the swift ninth grader, A. Jones pulled a single into left field to drive in both runners.
The Lady Hornets exploited more Lafayette generosity the next inning.
Junior Jordan Hibner, one of only three returning CHS starters from 2017, singled to open the fourth and advanced on a wild pitch. Following a walk to Corzette, Horton hit into a fielder’s choice that left runners at the corners.
In an important move, Horton stole second without a throw as Lafayette chose not to risk J. Hibner trying to steal home had it done so.
The lack of a force situation at second turned into a most-welcome extra CHS run as, after Rucker rolled out to shortstop to score J. Hibner and send Horton to third, LHS’ sixth and final miscue of the day on a ball hit by Lightner allowed Horton to make it 10-4.
After Rucker kept the Lady Irish at bay in both the fifth and sixth innings and retired the first batter of the seventh, she surrendered four singles in succession. The last of those came from losing pitcher Vice and drove in two runs to narrow the Chillicothe margin to 10-6.
That prompted fourth-year head coach Mike Jones to summon a relief pitcher.
Sophomore Gracie Ellis, who had started last week’s season opener and was roughed up significantly before being lifted with two outs in the first.
That experience behind her, she came in dealing this time.
She quickly got a ground ball to Horton at first for the second out of the seventh and earned the save when A. Jones handled a bouncer to shortstop.
It was fitting that third-year starter A. Jones made the play for the last out as, in addition to her four hits and two runs batted in, she earlier had made catches that she turned into LHS rally-squelching double plays.
Statistically for the softball Lady Hornets, they won even though they were out-hit 16-10. Rucker was able to limit the scoring damage from that high LHS hits total by not walking any batters and getting the two, timely double plays started by A. Jones in the third and fifth innings.
Not only did Rucker not hand out any free passes, but she consistently worked from ahead on the count. Of her 111 pitches thrown, 81 were either called or swinging strikes or were put in play. The freshman dealt first-pitch strikes to 24 of the 33 batters to whom she threw.
Offensively for Chillicothe, in addition to A. Jones’ four hits, Horton had two and scored twice.