Chillicothe HS golf, baseball Hornets shine under the clouds Tuesday
Undefeated golfers post best team score in five years in home win; diamond squad rallies late for second league win
The skies above were cloudy, but Chillicothe (Mo.) High School’s golf and baseball Hornets shined anyway Tuesday.
The unbeaten golf Hornets improved to 7-0 in dual matches thus far in 2021 with excellent team balance, getting all four scoring players shooting 9-holes rounds in between 40 and 45 strokes as they bested Lawson 170-185 on the “back nine” at Chillicothe’s Green Hills Golf Course.
Partially overlapping that action in the north part of town, on the east side at “June” Shaffer Memorial Park Stadium, the baseball Hornets were battling to stay close to guest St. Joseph: Benton before forcing extra innings with a 3-runs bottom of the seventh and then claiming victory, 4-3, when Brock Ward accepted a bases-loaded walk-off walk in the ninth.
The diamond decision boosted CHS’ Midland Empire Conference record to 2-0 and put the Hornets over .500 overall for the first time this spring at 3-2.
The tennis Hornets originally were to have had their home opener Tuesday, as well, but planned foe Richmond was not able to come up with enough players for a team this season, so the Hornets will remain out of competition until next week.
Even with some considerable wind with which to contend at the Chillicothe municipal course, both the host Hornets and their opponent fared well.
Two weeks earlier, they’d been part of a double-dual at Cameron for their season openers and posted considerably higher low-4 team scores – CHS a 186 and Lawson a 204.
Tuesday, even though the visiting Cardinals were 19 shots better than in the prior encounter, Chillicothe maintained much the same margin of victory.
Led in scoring, for the first time, by No. 1 player Spencer Shira, who posted a CHS season’s-best-to-date 40, the home team racked up its lowest dual-match team score since the 2016 team had a 167 in a loss to Trenton.
“A lot of our guys are trending in the right direction right now,” mused Wheeler, Chillicothe coach.
With freshmen James Mathew and Jackson Trout each cracking 45 for the first time in their promising careers – Mathew carding a 42 and Trout a 43 – and Colby Gillespie a 45, the Hornets easily offset the match-medalist round of LHS’ Jack Evans. Evans toured Green Hills Golf Course’s 10th through 18th holes in 3-over-par 39.
While the Cardinals had two other players score in the 40s, their totals were in the mid-to-upper 40s and the fourth counting score was a 53, leaving Lawson well off Chillicothe’s sharp pace.
“Undefeated is a good feeling, but we should get a good test at the Cameron Tournament (Wednesday, April 7), weather permitting,” Wheeler observed.
With their totals Tuesday, Shira and Gillespie continue to be a potent 1-2 punch for the Hornets. Through four 9-holes rounds, Gillespie has an average of exactly 43.0 and Shira a 43.3 mark, having taken one more swing than his classmate thus far this season.
Chillicothe’s non-counting varsity score Tuesday was senior No. 5 player Dalton Ripley’s 53, but CHS did have a fifth player in the 40s on the day. Senior Keagan Valbracht finished in 49 strokes as one of three junior-varsity Hornets in action.
While Lawson and Chillicothe engaged in team competition, there was one player from Plattsburg who also was part of Tuesday’s action. He shot a 64.
If the weather does prevent the golf Hornets from competing at Cameron Wednesday, their next scheduled action is to be at Brookfield Monday at 4 p.m.
Silenced on two hits and no runs by St. Joseph: Benton lefthanded senior pitcher Christian McGuire through six innings Tuesday and retired in order by him in four of the six frames, the Chillicothe baseball Hornets found themselves trailing the visiting Cardinals by only three runs and thus with a reasonable chance to rally in their last at-bat, due to some gritty pitching and generally-solid defense that repeatedly frustrated their foe’s efforts to poke a hole in the game.
Although the odds were far from in their favor for doing so, the Hornets made their earlier determination pay off.
With a little help from the Cardinals, Chillicothe knocked McGuire out in the bottom of the seventh with sophomore outfielder Wyatt Brandsgaard’s 2-runs single and then forced extra innings when No. 9 batter Tucker Wager’s twisting fly ball into the wind in short right field eluded the Benton right fielder for a game-tying double with two outs.
Even though they stranded T. Wagers in scoring position with a chance to end it there and then and followed by being unable to score after loading the bases with one out in the eighth, the Hornets posted their second MEC victory in as many 2021 league outings thus far in the ninth.
After junior righthander Gage Leamer (3-0) struck out two Cardinals with the potential tiebreaking run at third base in the top of the ninth, Chillicothe killed Benton softly in the bottom half.
With one out, even after showing a bunt two pitches earlier, T. Wagers beat out a beautifully-placed bunt down the third-base side with one out off reliever Korbin Lamb-Bodde. Following a walk to Griff Bonderer, a strikeout brought the teams to the brink of a 10th inning, but it never came about.
Swinging hard, but barely contacting the pitch with the bottom half of his bat, Ga. Leamer hit a dribbler about 15 feet up the third-base line on which there were no chance for Benton to make a play anywhere. The bases were loaded with Hornets again.
Facing the righthanded reliever for the first time after four at-bats against southpaw McGuire, Ward fell behind on the count, but didn’t chase a 2-2 pitch out of the strike zone and then had no problem laying off a full-count pitch that burrowed into the dirt as it reached the plate. Once he and each of the three teammates on base completed their advance to the next base on the walk, T. Wagers’ stepping on home plate meant a dramatic comeback victory for Chillicothe.
Benton undoubtedly wondered how the game had slipped away from it, having out-hit the Hornets 9-8 and having scoring chances galore it didn’t fully exploit.
Against CHS starting pitcher Griff Bonderer, the Cardinals left two runners in scoring position in the first half-inning, then did the same in the second after posting their first run on back-to-back groundouts following a leadoff double to left-center by catcher Jackson Kanacsky.
Another single tally went on the scoreboard on BHS’ line in the third, but the visitors also needlessly ran into an out on the bases with no outs and later left another man at second.
In the fourth, the Cardinals stranded a man at third when sophomore righthander Bonderer’s final pitch was grounded right to shortstop Mason Baxter, who had a busy day.
Facing reliever Ward, a junior righthander, in the fifth, Benton went one step further in missing a scoring chance, stranding the bases full on a borderline called third strike that prevented any scoring.
In the top of the sixth, a 1-out single, a throwing error trying to get a forceout at second base, and a sharp single between the bag and first baseman Landon Winder edged the Benton margin up to 3-0, but, with runners at the corners, third baseman Brock Miller started an around-the-horn double play on which T. Wagers turned a tremendous, quick pivot to nip the batter at first. That kept the Cardinal crossing the plate on the play from scoring and meant the Chillicothe deficit had stayed at 3-0.
After Ga. Leamer took over on the hill from Ward for the top of the seventh and set Benton down in order quickly, Chillicothe took its would-be last stand.
Ward started the inning with a grounder to second, where the ball was booted just long enough for the hustling Hornet to get to the bag in time to reach.
McGuire then surrendered only his third hit, a ball hooked down the left field line by Winder for a double. Still, those runners were inconsequential for Benton – or at least should have been considered so, since they could not pull CHS even.
However, after the next Hornet fanned, Brandsgaard – a strikeout victim his first two times up – pulled a hard-hit grounder inside the base at third and down the left field line for a hit that easily scored Ward from third and Winder from second. When the outfielder got to the ball, instead of being directed to throw the ball toward second base to keep the potential tying run in the person of Brandsgaard at first, he fired the ball toward home plate. Even though it was easily cut off by the third baseman, with Brandsgaard never breaking stride as he rounded first, the Benton infielder could do nothing but hold the ball as the Hornet scampered safely into second with only one out.
That ended McGuire’s day on the mound in favor of Lamb-Bodde.
The first man he faced was sophomore Miller, who’d already pounded a double to deep left and beaten out a 20-foot roller up the third-base line for a 2-hits game. The righthanded hitter stung a pitch back up the middle, but the reliever reacted just quickly enough to get a glove on it and slow it, allowing his second baseman to get to the grounder and throw Miller out for the second out.
Last hope T. Wagers, batting ninth in the CHS lineup, quickly got behind on the count 0-2, but, on a 1-2 delivery, lofted his fly ball that the right fielder, battling the ball’s natural tailing toward the line and the wind, could only get a glove on it in short right. The non-catch meant Brandsgaard crossing the plate with the equalizer.
Following another 1-2-3 inning from Ga. Leamer on the bump, CHS picked up a 1-out single by Ga. Leamer and an error by the Cardinals on Ward’s grounder to the right side, resulting in runners at the corners with one out.
To both avoid pitching to Winder after his double the prior inning and to create a forceout situation at any base, an intentional pass was given, presenting Max Wagers and – if needed – Brandsgaard chances to be walk-off heroes.
While both put the ball in play, each hit a ground ball that produced easy force plays at the plate and second, respectively, advancing the contest to a ninth inning.
Although being touched for an infield hit and a clean single to left with a CHS error in between, resulting on Cardinals at second and third bases with one out, Ga. Leamer buzzsawed through the next batter in three pitches for the second out. Then, after intentionally loading the bases with a walk, he quickly fanned the following BHS batter on three deliveries. The trio of stranded Cardinals increased to 13 their left-on total, including 11 in scoring position.
Chillicothe then packaged its pair of 20-feet hits with two free passes to prevail.
Statistically, T. Wagers, Miller, and Ga. Leamer each collected two CHS hits with Brandsgaard earning half of the runs batted in.
Pitching-wise, all three Hornets who threw – Bonderer, Ward, and Ga. Leamer – acquitted themselves well.
Bonderer allowed five hits and only two runs – both earned – in four innings in his first start after two relief outings. Ward surrendered an unearned run and two hits in his two frames, striking out three.