Trailing Maryville 9-1 after 2-1/2 innings in Saturday's (April 27) fifth-place game of their own 2019 Hornets Baseball Classic tournament, Hornets leave bases loaded in final inning of 9-7 loss
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. —Behind Maryville 9-1 in the third inning, the Chillicothe (Mo.) HS baseball Hornets ended Saturday’s (April 27) fifth-place game of the 2019 Hornets Baseball Classic tournament one swing short of victory.
With the bases full and one of the Hornets’ best hitters batting, Maryville’s fourth pitcher of the game got a popup that left the potential tying run in scoring position and sent the Spoofhounds home 9-7 survivors.
Having had run-scoring hits by Mason Baxter, Jaden Winder, and Westley Brandsgaard in the bottom of the fourth and two shutout innings of relief pitching from Brock Ward to climb within 9-6 with the game’s 1:45 time limit near expiration, the Hornets quickly put the potential tying run in the batter’s box as Brock Ward singled and Dawson Wheeler waited out a walk in the home half of the fifth.
After a third Maryville pitching change brought Trey Houchin to the mound from left field, a whiff and an infield popup left the Hornets’ backs to the wall with the time limit now passed. Barring a tie at the end of it, the fifth would be the last inning.
In that tough spot, Brad Hayen, a mid-game substitute after Tucker Wagers fouled a pitch off his foot, drew his second base on balls in as many plate appearances, loading the bases for Baxter, who already had homered and doubled in a run in addition to lining out to the second baseman, and potentially Winder and Brandsgaard.
Representing the winning run, should he be able to duplicate his first-inning home run sophomore infielder/pitcher Baxter stayed calm and, when the MHS hurler tried to get him to chase pitches outside the strike zone, accepted a 4-pitches walk. That gave him three runs driven in for the game as B. Ward waltzed home and put Winder, perfect on the day to that point with a double to the fence in right-center, a 2-runs single, and a hit by pitch, at the dish with the tying run at second and the nearly-.500-hitting Brandsgaard lurking on deck.
Winder fouled off both a 1-0 pitch and a 1-1 delivery before lofting the 1-2 offering into the air right at the pitcher’s mound on the “green” field at Daryl Danner Memorial Park. First baseman Tyler Houchin moved over to gloved it and, despite their strong comeback, the Hornets had slipped to 5-12 on the season.
They’ll try to get back on the winning track today when they rematch with Maryville (8-7) on the road at 4:30 p.m., this time in Midland Empire Conference play.
While still mathematically possible, the Hornets’ chances of having a third-straight winning season for the first time in program history effectively ended with Saturday’s defeat. They’ll need to sweep their last four regular-season games, win the district title, and then finish at least third in the Class 4 state tournament to be able to finish above .500.
Saturday’s opening inning included both positives and negatives for each side – both offensively and defensively, and ended with CHS in front for the only time by a run.
Maryville’s first batter hit a sharp grounder at second baseman Wagers, but, about 10 feet in front of him, it hit something and caromed high over his head for a single.
Starting pitcher Dawson Wheeler (2-1) then aided himself by bouncing off the hill toward the first-base line to both catch a checked-swing popup and, with a short flip to first sacker Westley Brandsgaard, turn it into a double play.
Although the next two MHS batters reached on walks, a strikeout ended the inning with no damage.
Three pitches into the home half, Chillicothe had a lead.
Watching two breaking balls miss low and away, sophomore shortstop Baxter got the fastball he was looking for on 2-0, one on the inner half of the plate and just above the belt. Hitting a high drive to straightaway center, the strong south-southwest wind blowing out to center kept the blow aloft until it landed just beyond the fence 330 feet away for CHS’ first home run of the season.
When Winder was hit by a 3-2 pitch, Brandsgaard singled to left-center, and Kam Ward was plunked, as well, the Hornets had a chance to have a big opening inning, but MHS hurler Adam Becker recovered to strike out the next three and leave the bases full, keeping his team within a run.
Maryville then got a mix of hits and free baserunners in the top of the second, but, unlike the Hornets, got its hits after four batters were hit, rather than before. As a result, Ty. Houchin’s and Connor Weiss’ ringing 2-baggers to the fence in left-center combined to produce four runs – three on Houchins’ drive – and stake the ’Hounds to a 6-1 lead.
Three singles, a walk, and a fifth hit batsman swirled into three more MHS runs in the top of the third, raising the specter of a third “run-rule” loss by Chillicothe in its last five outings. The Hornets refused to let that happen, however.
A 2-outs, ground-ball single through the right side of the infield by freshman B. Ward salvaged a run from the bottom of the third after Winder had led off with a double to the fence in right-center.
B. Ward then replaced Wheeler on the bump and, in only his second varsity pitching outing, held Maryville at bay for two innings. He was bailed out of a bases-full, 1-out jam in the fifth by an unassisted, line-drive double play handled by big brother Kam at first base.
That kept it 9-6, a narrower margin that had been created by a big CHS fourth frame.
With two outs and none on against righthander Becker, Bradley Riley worked a walk, surprisingly prompting the lifting of Becker.
The initial MHS reliever immediately walked Hayen and surrendered Baxter’s line-drive double up the alley in left-center that moved Chillicothe a run closer. Winder then laced a line drive just over the leaping shortstop’s leather to score Hayen and Baxter, making it 9-5 and leaving Winder in scoring position as he advanced on the ill-advised and too-high throw home.
With CHS’ top hitter, Brandsgaard, up and first base unoccupied, an intentional walk seemed the near-certain strategy, but Maryville’s coach opted to face the lefty swinger. The decision worked out for Chillicothe as Brandsgaard lashed a RBI single to right with contact which, with just a bit-higher launch angle off the bat, likely would have sent the ball over the cozy 300-plus=feet fence and made it 9-7. As it was, the Hornets were within three.
The MHS reliever finally retired a batter after four in a row had reached, getting a called strikeout to send the game to the fifth with CHS very much back in it.
Following the rally-zapping double play to end the Maryville fifth, the Spoofhounds inserted a second reliever, but he lasted only two batters before Tr. Houchin was called on and MHS narrowly escaped.
Statistically, each team collected eight hits – each having two for extra bases. The top three in the CHS lineup – Baxter, Winder, and Brandsgaard – and B. Ward split up the CHS hits two apiece. While Baxter drove in three runs and Winder two for CHS, Ty. Houchin’s bases-clearing double and third-inning 2-runs single left him with five knocked in during a perfect 2-for-2, 2-walks day.
With the game concluded in five innings, Becker ended up with pitching credit for the win, working 3-2/3 innings of 4-hits, 7-strikeouts ball. The loss went to Wheeler. The game’s hurlers issued a combined nine bases on balls and bruised a whopping eight hit batsmen.
Each team was charged with only one error, neither of which factored into the scoring.