Late-innings struggles leave CHS baseball winless in own tourney
Hornets outscored 25-4 in final three innings of three HBC games last week
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
A concerning, ongoing Chillicothe High School baseball Hornets trend of late-innings struggles, which began during the Marshall Invitational Tournament two weeks earlier and had recurred a time or two since then, erupted with full force during CHS’ three games in the Hornets Baseball Classic late last week.
Beginning with the loss of a 5-runs lead in the seventh inning of their Classic opener against Macon, the Hornets were outscored a composite 25-4 in the last three innings of each of their contests against Macon, St. Joseph: Benton, and Maryville.
After having a pending upset of Macon turn into an 8-7 9-innings loss at mid-afternoon last Thursday, Chillicothe (7-9) dropped its later game that day to Benton 16-8 at “June” Shaffer Memorial Park Stadium. Playing for fifth place Saturday morning at Daryl Danner Memorial Park’s chummier green field, the Hornets took an early 2-0 lead on Maryville, only to see the Spoofhounds score six times in the top of the fifth inning and, behind a pair of home runs, tally 10 times in the last three frames for a 10-3 victory.
CHS’ diamond squad was to have visited Trenton for non-conference action Monday, but a larger amount of rain there prompted that action to be shifted to Chillicothe.
After attempting to snap their 4-games losing streak against THS’ Bulldogs, the baseball Hornets were scheduled to visit Maryville for a Midland Empire Conference game yesterday before traveling to St. Joseph for a non-league clash with Benton tomorrow. The meetings with the latter two foes will be the third each this season for Chillicothe.
Undoubtedly emotionally and psychologically dented by their late collapse against the strong Macon squad earlier last Thursday, Chillicothe’s team had little spark as it returned to the “Chuck” Haney Field diamond for that day’s final Hornets Baseball Classic contest.
Not surprisingly, Benton reaped the benefits of seven Chillicothe errors, 10 bases on balls, and three hit batsmen to score a dozen unearned runs in its 16-8 triumph. Having just defeated pitching-weakened Macon by the identical 16-8 count, Benton thus advanced to Saturday’s tournament championship game. There, it lost to Kirksville 12-2 in five innings.
Playing as the home team, a pair of CHS fielding errors and three walks led to Benton jumping on top 4-0 after a half-inning.
After the Hornets converted three walks into two runs themselves, Benton benefitted from three more Hornets miscues, two more free passes, and a hit batsman in the second to double its runs total with four more unearned tallies.
Again, the Chillicothe offense countered even though it didn’t get any hits. Three walks and a Benton throwing error allowed Hornets Wyatt Brandsgaard, Tucker Wagers, and Mason Baxter all to score on the errant peg, narrowing the deficit to three runs, 8-5, after two.
When Chillicothe starting and losing pitcher Gage Leamer threw a strong, scoreless third, opportunity beckoned for the Hornets, but they could not answer its knock on the door. They were retired in order and by the time they batted in the fourth, they trailed 13-5 and, with a 1:45 time limit for the game in effect, were out of luck.
Statistically, the slow-paced game ended up having nearly 250 pitches thrown in a mere five frames with 19 walks handed out and four batters plunked by pitches. The teams combined for only 10 hits, merely three belonging to Hornets. Chillicothe finished with seven errors.
After taking Friday off while the other half of the tourney field played, CHS swapped sites to Danner Park, but eventually found no improvement in its late-innings fortunes.
Junior righthander Brock Ward (1-1), who had thrown 2-1/3 innings in relief against Macon and taken the loss Thursday while catching all of the time he didn’t pitch, went to the hill as the Hornets’ starting pitcher against a Maryville squad which had downed the Hornets 10-6 at St. Joseph the week before.
Aided by catcher Ga. Leamer’s gunning down a would-be Maryville basestealer for the second out of the first inning and two double plays, Ward threw scoreless ball through four. A well-executed 2-3-2 double play on a dropped third strike to close the top of the fourth suggested the home team had shaken off the effects of Thursday’s misfortunes.
It wasn’t to be, however.
Nearing his available pitches limit and likely tiring, Ward gave up a walk and back-to-back singles to start the MHS fifth, pulling the ’Hounds within 2-1.
With runners at second and third, Hornets head coach Joshua Lisle gave the ball to sophomore Brock Miller, but he uncorked a game-tying wild pitch. He then struck out the No. 9 man in the MHS lineup, only to have leadoff man Kade Wilmes connect on a drive to right-center field that sailed over the friendly fence about 320 feet away. The 2-runs homer gave Maryville the lead.
When the next man walked, Miller was replaced by another 10th grader, Trent Keith. After walking the first man he faced, the righty got out No. 2 on a bouncer to third base, but a single to right-center field by Connor Weiss ballooned the Maryville inning to a 6-runs explosion.
In the home half, Baxter’s 1-out single, a 2-out walk to Ward, the hitting of Ga. Leamer with a pitch, and a wild pitch narrowed the score to 6-3 and, with two runners in scoring position, presented a chance for Chillicothe to get back on very close terms with a hit or even with a long ball. However, emblematic of the Hornets’ luck of late, a hard-hit ball to center field was caught instead of finding some grass, keeping the gap at three runs.
With Chillicothe’s pitching staff largely wrung out and little more than pride on the line, youngsters Keith, Alijah Hibner, and Cayden Larson finished up, combining to allow four runs (Hibner retired two of the three men he faced to end the sixth).
Statistically, Maryville out-hit Chillicothe 13-7, including a second home run from sophomore Adam Patton leading off the seventh. Baxter and Landon Winder had two hits apiece for the Hornets, who cut their errors down to one. However, CHS pitchers did issue another eight walks.