Take Kirksville (20-8) down to final out of Saturday's (May 11, 2019) Class 4 District 16 Tournament opener before falling 3-1. Hornets finish year 5-15
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — After a disappointing regular season ruined by injury limitations to what was to be the team’s foundation – experienced, but youthful, pitching, the 2019 Chillicothe (Mo.) HS baseball Hornets made a gallant bid Saturday (May 11) to capitalize on the postseason “reset.”
Matched up in the opening round of the Class 4 District 16 Tournament with a strong Kirksville Tigers team which went 19-8 during the regular season, the Hornets bowed out for 2019 at 5-15 when they made the last out of their 3-1 defeat Saturday with the potential tying runs in scoring position and possible winning run aboard, as well, and their heaviest hitter at the dish.
Behind by two runs since Kirksville snapped a 1-1 deadlock with a pair of runs in the bottom of the third inning, Chillicothe produced a 1-out single by senior first baseman Matt Smith and an opposite-field hit to left by junior Bradley Riley to bring up the top of its lineup with the potential tying runs on base with one down.
Four-straight pitches outside of the strike zone to leadoff man Mason Baxter, who already had a double and single on the day, put him aboard, as well, shoving pinch-runner Isaih Kille to third and Riley, representing the tying run, to second.
In a reconfigured batting order, that brought Kam Ward, swapped from the cleanup spot with the more-potent previous No. 2 batter Jaden Winder, to the plate with Westley Brandsgaard and his near-.500 batting average on deck.
With the Hornets’ co-leaders in runs batted in looming, the Kirksville pitcher rallied to strike out K. Ward, but that still meant facing Brandsgaard with the chance to tie things with a well-placed single or, with the speedy Baxter able to get a good lead off first, potentially clear the bases with an extra-bases blow.
After missing the zone with the first two deliveries, the KHS hurler challenged the Hornets junior. Contact-wise, Brandsgaard met the challenge, squaring up the pitch and sending a line drive toward the outfield. Unfortunately for him and the Hornets, the ball stayed aloft long enough for the Tigers center fielder to get to it and glove it. Instead of a potential tying or lead-grabbing hit, the liner became the final out of CHS’ season.
Chillicothe never led, falling behind 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning before netting its only run in the top of the third.
Winder, who – despite a final 1.67 earned run average and tiny .174 opponents’ batting average, team statistics show – finished the season with a 0-5 won-lost record with the setback, was victimized by a run-scoring, 3-bases error with two outs in the first, but a Kirksville error evened the score in the third.
With one out in the CHS third, Baxter doubled to left-center field and took third on K. Ward’s groundout to second. Having not faced Brandsgaard previously and having retired him on a grounder to shortstop his first time up, Kirksville decided to pitch to him with Baxter at third, even with two bases open. The lefthanded hitter pulled a hard grounder the Tigers’ first baseman couldn’t complete the play on and Baxter crossed the plate, squaring things at 1-1.
The tie didn’t last long.
Back-to-back 1-out singles by the top two men in the KHS lineup, followed by a walk, gave the Tigers a prime opportunity in their half of the third. Cleanup man Paxton Dempsay managed to loft a 1-1 pitch from the CHS junior righthander far enough into left field to score the tiebreaking run and Ryan Ball’s first of two hits drove home a second run of the inning from second with two outs.
Winder pitched out of jams in both the fourth and fifth to keep it 3-1, but he and his teammates were retired in order in both the fourth and sixth and stranded two 2-outs runners in the fifth as the Hornets made no inroads into the deficit. When the final-inning flurry fizzled, Chillicothe’s season had concluded.
Statistically in the finale, the Hornets were out-hit 7-5 and made two errors to Kirksville’s one. Baxter’s two hits led the meager CHS offense, which ended the season averaging less than 3.5 runs per game while leaving more than eight baserunners on per game.