Softball team wins fourth straight, leveling overall record, in league opener; volleyball sweeps aside Carrollton with fast finish

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — For the second week in a row, Chillicothe (Mo.) HS fall sports teams in action Tuesday (Sept. 15) emerged triumphant from their outings.
For the second-straight week, the volleyball Lady Hornets swept past a regional neighbor, defeating visiting Carrollton 25-17, 25-11, 25-23. The softball Lady Hornets already had posted an 8-6 home decision over Cameron in the diamond girls’ Midland Empire Conference opener for 2020.

Steady attack carries CHS softball to fourth-straight win, .500
The only “big” inning of Tuesday’s MEC opener between Chillicothe and Cameron was the visiting Lady Dragons’ 4-runs fifth that carved the Lady Hornets’ seemingly-comfortable 6-1 lead to 6-5.
The home team, however, scored either a run or two in five of the six innings in which it batted, allowing it to fend off the guests and, with a fourth-consecutive victory, square its season record at 4-4.
After Cameron made its fifth-inning push, which ended with starting and winning pitcher Kinlei Boley (3-2) getting her ninth and last strikeout to strand both the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position, the Lady Hornets countered with the last of 3-straight 2-runs frames, pushing their lead back to three.
Senior reliever Halle Rucker then tagged in for Boley and retired Cameron in order in the sixth, providing an opportunity for her team to tack on another insurance run which proved quite welcome in the  bottom half.
Cameron put its first three batters in the top of the seventh on base, scoring one on an error, to bring the potential tying run to home plate with the Nos. 3, 4, and 5 Lady Dragons  batters awaiting.
H. Rucker responded to the unwanted challenge, getting a run-scoring groundout, a strikeout, and game-ending tap back to herself to register the save.
For Chillicothe (4-4, 1-0 conf.), the two tallies it got in the home fifth after Cameron tightened things in the top half were the critical ones.
Boley led off with a bouncer into left field and Mika Hibner reached on an error. Mollie Ellis then put down a sacrifice bunt on which the throw to first was dropped, filling the bases on another miscue. Senior Brooke Horton slashed a 1-2 pitch into center field for a single, scoring Boley and keeping the sacks jammed.
Dawsyn Lightner then hit a blooper directly behind the pitching rubber, not high enough for any infielders to get to, thus negating the basis for an “infield-fly-rule” automatic out call. When the backpedaling pitcher had the ball squirt out of her glove and then panicked a bit once she grabbed the ball off the ground, Hibner scored, although the ball eventually was tossed to third base to retire Ellis, who had stayed near second. The odd play, which technically turned into a fielder’s choice force play at third, gave Lightner a run batted in for getting the seventh Chillicothe run home.
In the home sixth, leadoff hitter Sophia Luetticke reached safely for a fourth time in as many plate appearances when the first baseman failed to glove a low throw on a close play. Luetticke had singled and scored in each of her first three at-bats and soon would score a fourth time this inning. After she stole second, Boley’s ground-ball single into center field let the fleet CHS outfielder scoot home without a play, making it 8-4.
Chillicothe took the lead in the first inning on Luetticke’s hit to left-center field, the first of her three steals – the second game in a row for her doing that, and groundouts from Kirsten Dunn and Boley.
In the third, another Luetticke hit and theft and Dunn’s single to right made it 2-0. After she took second on the throw home trying to get Luetticke, Dunn stole third, allowing her to jog home on Hibner’s 2-outs hit to center.
Another two Chillicothe runs went on the Daryl Danner Memorial Park red field scoreboard in the fourth. With two outs and none on, H. Rucker poked a single to right and Luetticke beat out a grounder to shortstop. Dunn spanked a ground ball up the middle, sending H. Rucker racing toward home plate. The center fielder’s throw toward home was off-line and went to the side fence, allowing Luetticke to keep wheeling around third in an attempt to score. Although it looked like the catcher had a chance to get her, the Cameron receiver instead heard and heeded a call from either the nearby dugout or teammates to throw to third, where Dunn was headed. The peg there got Dunn, but not before Luetticke had slid across home plate with Chillicothe’s fifth run.
After blanking Cameron on only one hit and two baserunners through four innings, Boley suddenly was solved by the Lady Dragons.
The first three batters in the top of the fifth singled, the last two on ground balls that happened to find holes. With the bases full, the Chillicothe sophomore righthander briefly responded with a called strikeout, but two run-scoring walks followed. A single to right field plated another and a 2-outs passed ball left the Chillicothe advantage at a mere run with still two on. They were stranded, however, on a whiff on a 2-2 pitch, Boley’s last of the day.
Statistically, Luetticke filled out her line well, going three for four with four runs scored and three steals. Dunn and Boley each drove in two runs and had two RBI, while Hibner and Ellis also swatted two hits apiece in the efficient 13-hits attack. The Lady Hornets left only four runners on base.
Chillicothe committed only one error to Cameron’s four.
“It was good to get that first conference win,” commented head coach Lee Rucker.
Chillicothe’s softball squad will travel to league foe Savannah Thursday.

Strong closing kick lets Chillicothe spikers sweep past visiting Carrollton
After winning the first game of their best-of-5-games home match against southern neighbor Carrollton by a safe 25-17 margin Tuesday, Chillicothe’s volleyball Lady Hornets (3-1) were even more in command in the second, dispatching the Lady Trojans 25-11.
Perhaps letting up a bit in the third game, Chillicothe’s players found out Carrollton did not intend to roll over and roll south for home, but came up with a response at the last second.
Carrollton worked to a several-points lead by mid-game and advanced it to at-least a half-dozen points before Chillicothe refocused.
Still, the visitors were up 22-17 when Chillicothe junior middle hitter/blocker Gracie West converted a nice set into a kill shot that ignited a fast Lady Hornets finish.
The home team won the next two points, but then lost the serve, leaving Carrollton two points away from forcing a fourth game, which would have been the first time in Chillicothe history that it had played four games in a match.
The Missouri State High School Activities Association will switch fully from the long-standing best-of-3 match format to best-of-5 next year and is using this year as a transitional season. Teams are allowed to play best-of-3 in up to half of their matches, but most, including Chillicothe, are going best-of-5 full time.
Having earned their previous two match wins by 3-0 counts, as well as taking their lone loss by that margin, the Lady Hornets took the next rally to regain the serve, behind 23-21. They pulled even, prompting a second timeout of the late stages by Carrollton, but the snowball was rolling downhill too fast for the Lady Trojans to stop it now.
After an unreturned serve put Chillicothe on the brink of the comeback win, senior Maya Snyder used a 2-handed “touch” shot, rather than trying a spike, to dink the ball over two would-be blockers from the left-outside spot for the game- and match-winner.
Statistically for Chillicothe, first-year head coach Bob Long reports, the Lady Hornets had a season-high 50 aces. Sophomore Izzy Montgomery led with 12, junior Essie Hicks had 11, and sophomore Jessica Reeter 10.
West led in “kills” (spikes) with 10, followed by Snyder with nine. Reeter contributed 18 assists and Snyder eight, while, on defense, Hicks and Makayla Vance led with nine and eight digs, respectively.
The volleyball Lady Hornets will have their second Midland Empire Conference match of the season Thursday against Bishop LeBlond at St. Joseph. Chillicothe’s varsity is 0-1 in the loop at present and has not won a MEC match since the 2018 season.