Run in Ninth Extends Chillicothe (Mo.) HS Baseball Team's 2021 Season

Winning relief pitcher Mason Baxter singled with two outs in the top of the ninth and scored on Brock Ward's hit to center to nip Richmond 5-4 at Odessa Saturday

As reported to C-T

ODESSA, Mo. — Thanks to their second 9-innings win of the 2021 season in four chances and third extra-innings triumph in five tries Saturday (May 15), the Chillicothe HS baseball Hornets clinched their sixth season of double-digits wins in the last seven played (not counting canceled 2020, of course) and extended their campaign into another calendar week.

Up 3-0 on fourth seed Richmond after 1-1/2 innings and clinging to a 4-3 edge with only one out to get and the bases empty in the bottom of the seventh inning, the fifth-seeded Hornets grittily shrugged off the disappointment and stress of being forced into extra innings and pushed across their own 2-outs, none-on run in the top of the ninth to subdue the Spartans 5-4 in the quarterfinals of the Class 4 District 15 Tournament.

CHS sophomore catcher Brock Ward followed Mason Baxter’s 2-outs single to left-center field and Griff Bonderer’s hit by pitch with a base hit to center field that drove in the go-ahead run in the ninth.

After CHS couldn’t add on an insurance tally from the second-and-third situation after Ward’s latest game-winning RBI, Baxter completed a 4-innings relief stint on the mound by working around a 2-outs single to preserve the Hornets’ 10th win in 22 games this year and his own third in six decisions.

Chillicothe’s reward is a Monday afternoon 4 p.m. date with No. 1 seed Odessa, the tourney host.

While the Bulldogs’ 17-5 record is far shinier and it will have the advantage of having fresher pitching, Chillicothe can take heart from the fact that one of OHS’ five losses was administered to it by Richmond on the Odessa diamond early in the season.

Monday’s other semifinals pairing in the 5-teams tournament will have second seed Excelsior Springs meeting No. 3 Oak Grove after the Chillicothe-Odessa duel.

If the weather, which fortunately relented Saturday to allow the lone quarterfinal game to be played – albeit a couple of hours later than scheduled – that day, forces postponement of some or all of Monday’s slate, the games presumably would be moved back to Tuesday. The district-title game is set for Wednesday.

Saturday’s Chillicothe triumph ultimately saw the quick start and first-inning knockout of Richmond’s starting pitcher pay off.

Baxter opened the contest with a triple to right field and scored on a wild throw by the second baseman on the relay.

With one out in the Hornets’ first, Ward walked and, after he was forced out at second, sophomore Brock Miller also tripled to the opposite field, scoring Landon Winder from first base for a 2-0 lead.

That hit prompted the removal of RHS’ starting pitcher in favor of another righthander, Spencer West. In the end, that early hook played a role in the winning CHS rally.

After Hornets starting pitcher Gage Leamer worked around a 1-out error – one of only two CHS made in the game – in the bottom of the first, his teammates did a bit more damage in the second.

Even though Wyatt Brandsgaard’s first of two singles on the day was nullified by a caught-stealing – one of three Hornets cut down on the basepaths during the game, CHS generated a third run without any more hits.

Sophomore right fielder Max Wagers, returning to action after about a month dealing with an upper-body injury, coaxed a walk and stole second and third. After big brother Tucker also accepted a free pass, Baxter lifted a scoring fly ball to center field.

Richmond (11-11) replied with a pair of runs – one unearned – in the bottom of the second, swatting a pair of doubles around the miscue before an out was recorded.

However, at that point, Ga. Leamer found his best stuff and retired the next nine Spartans consecutively, using only 21 pitches to do so.

A second Baxter sacrifice fly made the Hornets’ lead two runs again in the fourth, again plating M. Wagers, who had tripled leading off the frame, but Richmond turned a leadoff double, a ground ball, and fly ball in the bottom of the fifth to get back within a run at 4-3.

Although his starting pitcher had retired 12 of the previous 13 batters on a mere 30 pitches and had delivered only 45 pitches in five innings, Chillicothe first-year head coach Joshua Lisle opted to replace him with Griff Bonderer to start the home half of the sixth.

Almost as quickly as he entered, the sophomore departed, replaced by Baxter after the first RHS batter in the sixth doubled, the next reached on a fielder’s choice, and the third walked, loading the bases.

Baxter answered the call in stalwart fashion.

He got the first batter he faced to pop up to second base on the first pitch, then struck out the next man on five pitches. When the next tapped the ball between the plate and mound, Baxter scurried in to pick it up and flip to his catcher for the inning-ending, rally-ruining forceout at the plate that let the Hornets escape the threat still on top.

When the CHS senior then set down the first two batters in the seventh, the Hornets seemed set to claim their victory. They’d have to wait, though.

A 5-pitches walk was followed by a single to left field. An infield hit to the left side by Spartans cleanup man Lance Rogers, who Baxter would get for the game-ending out two innings later, filled the sacks.

With the game’s outcome perched to go either way, Wyatt Marshall stroked a 3-2 pitch on the ground to the left side of the CHS infield again and once more it went for an infield hit, bringing home the tying run.

Another chance for Richmond to win it instead saw Baxter battle back from a 2-1 count to induce a grounder to T. Wagers at third. The third sacker threw home and got the forceout that preserved the 4-4 ties and forced extra frames.

In the eighth, Chillicothe got two men on after two were out, but didn’t score. Baxter then had a 1-2-3 bottom half, setting the stage for the Hornets to prevail in the ninth.

As previously noted, Ward’s early call to the hill became a factor at game’s end.

In the top of the eighth, Brandsgaard’s 7-pitch at-bat which produced a walk pushed Ward to his pitch-count limit, forcing him from the game with two on and two out.

Center fielder Wyatt Covey relieved as the Spartans’ third hurler of the day and immediately fell behind on the county to M. Wagers 3-1. However, on the third ball offering, his catcher helped him out by picking the Chillicothe runner off at second base.

When Covey, rather than Wolf, faced the top of the Chillicothe lineup with two outs in the ninth, he was unable to get the third out until the Hornets had formulated their winning rally.

Statistically, Baxter, who once intended to accept an offer to be part of the Chillicothe Mudcats’ 2021 squad, but has since decided not to, was the fulcrum of the Hornets’ triumph.

With the bat, he went two for three with two runs scored and two driven in. With his arm, he threw four innings of 1-run relief, walking only one. For good measure, he handled three ground balls flawlessly in the field – one as the starting shortstop and two while pitching.

Joining him and Brandsgaard in having a pair of hits was Ward, whose game-winning run batted in was his team-high 18th RBI of the season.

Chillicothe out-hit Richmond 9-8. Richmond was charged with four errors to CHS’ two.

Each team wasted scoring chances, the Hornets leaving eight men on base and Richmond nine.