St. Joseph: Lafayette's 8-1 Sectional Victory Caps Chillicothe (Mo.) HS Baseball Season
Fighting Irish ride catcher's bat, pitcher's arm and stick to triumph, ending CHS season with 12-13 record
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
An impressive all-around performance, spiced by big hits from their senior battery of catcher Chance Herie and pitcher Jayden Little, the St. Joseph: Lafayette Fighting Irish methodically dispatched the young, upstart Chillicothe High School baseball Hornets in sectional-round action in Missouri’s Class 4 state tournament Tuesday evening at Chillicothe’s “June” Shaffer Memorial Park Stadium.
Little, whose grand slam and strong relief pitching had carried most of the load in Lafayette’s 4-3 regular-season home victory over Chillicothe, again went deep – a 2-runs shot over the left-center-field wall in the fifth inning to boost the visitors’ lead to 6-0.
While his circuit clout was decisive in the first meeting, it effectively was icing on the cake Herie already had baked with a second-inning 2-outs, RBI double deep down the left-field line and another 2-bagger, this time over the left fielder’s head going toward the gap, that plated two Irish markers in the fourth. The courtesy runner for Herie, swift Levi Scheerer, dashed home from third on a very short passed ball to make it 4-0 in the fourth.
Those four runs Herie largely accounted for were more than enough for Little to work with on the mound.
Although solved by Chillicothe sophomore left fielder Wyatt Brandsgaard for clean singles through the hole into left field in the second and fifth frames, the Lafayette righthander never allowed a Hornet past first base until the home sixth, by which time the Fighting Irish’s margin had elongated to 8-0.
A booming leadoff triple to deep left-center by Mason Baxter, one of only two seniors on the season-ending Chillicothe roster, was cashed in by the unexpected District 15-champion hosts in the sixth to avoid the shutout. A groundout to shortstop by the Hornets’ leading hitter and run producer on the season – junior catcher Brock Ward – brought Baxter home.
Little then closed out his 4-hits complete game that left University of Oklahoma-bound staff ace Brayden Luikart fully fresh and available to Lafayette’s state quarterfinal at Lee’s Summit: Summit Christian Academy Thursday with a 1-2-3 seventh.
Statistically, Lafayette out-hit Chillicothe 9-4, the Irish collecting hits in every inning except the seventh. The St. Joseph team scored in four of the seven frames, posting crooked numbers on the “Chuck” Haney Field scoreboard in the fourth, fifth and sixth to pull away.
Although CHS committed the contest’s only two errors, all of the LHS runs were earned.
In addition to Brandsgaard’s 2-for-3 day at the dish, the Hornets had Baxter’s triple and a single by Landon Winder. Lafayette’s Herie went three for four with three RBI and Luikart was two for three plus a walk, scoring twice.
While unable to match the more-experienced Little’s hill work, Chillicothe’s starting and losing pitcher, junior righty Gage Leamer (5-4), a first-year high school baseball player, threw creditably. He allowed six runs on eight hits, two walks, and two hit batters in his five innings, but never let any Irish uprising mushroom out of control. That bought time for his team to try to solve Little, even though the Hornets never did.
Working the final two innings on the mound for CHS was sophomore Max Wagers, who had made a couple of outstanding catches in right field while battling a strong south wind that pushed the balls away from him. M. Wagers gave up the last two Lafayette runs on one hit and three walks in his two innings.
In addition to the two excellent catches in right, other Chillicothe fielders swiped potential hits from Lafayette, as well. Senior third baseman Tucker Wagers lunged to his right to spear a line drive and momentarily prevent a run in the second and Brandsgaard rushed in from his position in left field to make a diving snag of a shallow fly ball to begin the sixth. Without those plays, the game likely would have ended an inning early on the 10-runs-lead rule.
Done in by a 3-10 stretch from midseason to the end of the regular season, Chillicothe could not salvage at least a .500 record from its campaign, finishing 12-13. An upset of Lafayette would have assured them of no worse than a .500 mark.
The state-tournament contest was only Chillicothe second in the quarter-century it has hosted a baseball team. The other time was 2005. Ironically, in both cases, the Hornets finished with losing records (13-15 in ’05).
The Fighting Irish move on in state play with an 18-7 record.
An impressive crowd of Hornets and Lafayette fans numbering an estimated 500 took in the game under cloudy, but dry, and mild conditions.