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Chillicothe (Mo.) Softball Lady Hornets Claim Outright MEC Crown with Style

Needing win at St. Joseph Friday night (Oct. 9), Chillicothe swamped Benton 12-2 in five innings, wrapping up the undisputed Midland Empire Conference crown behind strong pitching, 16-hits attack

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Members of the Chillicothe (Mo.) HS softball Lady Hornets celebrate the final out of their 12-2, 5-innings victory at St. Joseph: Benton Friday, Oct. 9, 2020. The triumph clinched the Midland Empire Conference's undisputed title with a perfect 7-0 record. It's CHS' first MEC softball crown since 2011. ( Photo supplied by CHS coach Lee Rucker )
  • Senior Brooke Horton whacked her team-high fourth HR
  • Sophomore pitcher Kinlei Boley held Benton to two hits while stroking three doubles herself
  • CHS scored in every inning, including multiple runs in four of the five frames
  • Chillicothe already had clinched at least share of first MEC diamond crown since 2011

ST. JOSEPH — With their only two seniors – Brooke Horton and Mollie Ellis – leading the way offensively with a combined five hits in six at-bats, a home run, a double, three runs driven in, and fours scored, the Chillicothe (Mo.) HS softball Lady Hornets emphatically declared themselves undisputed Midland Empire Conference champions for 2020 Friday with a 12-2, 5-innings blowout of host St. Joseph: Benton.

“The girls were very focused for this game and determined to finish the conference season on top,” Lee Rucker, first-year Chillicothe head coach, commented. “It was really fun to see the excitement in them when they accomplished one of their preseason goals by wrapping up the conference title.”

The triumph, which saw CHS score in every inning – including a 5-runs eruption in the top of the fifth that put it in position to wrap the game up early, capped a sizzling league showing.

Four of its last five triumphs were “run-rule” affairs, the exception being an 8-0 win. The only close game was an 8-6 home decision over Cameron in the Lady Hornets’ MEC opener.

”Their hard work all season is paying off for them and I couldn't be happier for them,” coach Rucker continued.

With Friday’s outright-title clincher, Chillicothe will carry a 3-games winning streak and overall 13-5 record into Monday’s 5 p.m. regular-season finale at home against Trenton.

The Lady Hornets then will begin play in the Class 3 District 8 Tournament Tuesday night at about 7:30 p.m. That will be a rematch with Benton, but this time on CHS’ home Daryl Danner Memorial Park red field, host site for the district event next Tuesday through Saturday.

Despite its league crown and having won 13 of its last 14, Chillicothe is only the No. 3 seed in District 8. That’s because once-beaten Kirksville, the No. 1 seed, defeated the visiting Lady Hornets 5-4 back in early August, and No. 2 Macon measured Chillicothe 6-3 at Macon on the first day of this month.

Friday’s Chillicothe-Benton game saw the Lady Hornets never trail.

Winning pitcher Kinlei Boley doubled home Sophia Luetticke, who drew a walk to start the game, and Kirsten Dunn singled Boley in for a 2-0 CHS lead after a half-inning,

Helped by the game’s lone error, Benton tagged Boley for two soft runs on one hit in its first to tie it. The sophomore righthander, however, would be “nails” thereafter, retiring 13 of the final 14 batters she faced.

What eventually stood as the game-winning run scored in the Chillicothe second when Horton led off with a single and then scored from second with two outs on Luetticke’s opposite-field double to left. Luetticke then dashed home on Hope Helton’s first of two hits.

More “2-outs magic” was displayed in the CHS third. Ellis ripped a 2-outs double – one of five 2-baggers the Lady Hornets laced – and Horton delivered her with a single to left-center.

Ahead 5-2, the Chillicothe fourth saw another Helton RBI hit and Boley’s second of three doubles right after that.

When Ellis’ opposite-way single to right and first baseman Horton’s team-leading fourth home run to center began the visitors’ fifth fast, Chillicothe players’ and fans’ thoughts immediately went to the potential for a shortened, “run-rule” verdict.

Senior corner infielder Brooke Horton of the 2020 Chillicothe (Mo.) softball Lady Hornets hammers a home run to center field during a Sept. 22 home victory over Maryville. This past Friday (Oct. 9), Horton's fourth home run of the year, her three hits, and three runs batted in helped lead a 12-2 win at St. Joseph: Benton that clinched the Midland Empire Conference title outright for CHS. (C-T FILE PHOTO /WL “BUTCH” SHAFFER)

Needing three more runs to have that chance, those prospects dimmed when a pair of outs were recorded without additional scoring. However, with two on and two out, Boley’s 2-runs double to center and Mika Hibner’s RBI single there provided the necessary spread.

When Benton went down in order again facing Boley in the bottom half, the game and undisputed MEC championship were Chillicothe’s.

The Lady Hornets entered the game already assured of no worse than a share of their program’s first league crown since 2011.

Statistically in Friday’s game, Chillicothe out-hit Benton 16-2 and had all six extra-base hits of the contest. Only one Lady Hornet fanned, while Boley (9-2) whiffed six Lady Cardinals and walked merely one in going the abbreviated distance.

Individually with the bat, Horton was three for three with her circuit clout, three runs batted in, and two scored. Boley finished with her three doubles and four RBI, Luetticke was 2-for-2 with two walks, two stolen bases, and four runs scored, and Helton had two hits, two runs, and two driven in.