Chillicothe (Mo.) Softball Lady Hornets Prevail 1-0 over Kirksville in ’21 Home Debut
Boley overpowers KHS bats for 13 strikeouts. Throwing error plates lone run in fifth
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
A magnificent pitchers’ duel was decided by a misplay Monday with the host Chillicothe (Mo.) HS softball Lady Hornets forcing the error that decided their 1-0 triumph over Kirksville.
The CHS home opener between two teams with many returnees from their outstanding 2020 predecessors lived up to expectations of a close, close game.
The only tally came when speedy Chillicothe leadoff batter Sophia Luetticke singled leading off the home fifth, took second on a wild pitch, and then – with an aggressive break off second base on a 2-outs pitch – quickly tried for third on a pitch in the dirt that bounced only a few feet from the Kirksville catcher.
Grabbing the loose ball almost immediately, the catcher fired it toward third where, with Luetticke just sliding in, the throw got past the third baseman and down the left field line, allowing the Lady Hornet to score without a close throw.
“This was a great game between two really good teams,” Chillicothe coach Lee Rucker enthused afterward. “It will have a big impact on district-tournament seedings later this season.”
While KHS senior righthander Sophie Stuart was posting zero after zero until then despite a few Chillicothe scoring chances, Lady Hornets junior righty Kinlei Boley was even filthier - once she got going.
Three of the first four Lady Tigers to step in as the game started tagged Boley for basehits. The third of those being a single to center, Kirksville played it cautiously on the bases and stopped its lead runner at third base, liking its chances of cashing in on a bases-loaded opportunity.
It guessed wrong.
With the sacks jammed, Boley got her powerful arm limbered up and struck out the next two Kirksville batters looking – the first on a 2-2 offering and the next on four pitches. Little did anyone – least of all the visitors and their fans – know, but Boley would give the Lady Tigers no second chance to score.
Following the third hit of the opening inning, the CHS hurler had only one more Kirksville batter reach base – that on a leadoff fly ball to left in the fourth that was missed for an error.
If not for that miscue, which Boley (3-1) easily worked around with a pair of whiffs and a comebacker, she retired 20 of the last 21 Lady Tigers she faced. She finished with a season-high 13 strikeouts.
“Kinlei threw a fantastic game,” coach Rucker gushed. “She was able to pitch seven innings and only throw 97 pitches because she commanded the strike zone well.” Sixty-nine of Boley’s pitches were either called or swinging strikes or put in play and she threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of the 25 opposing batters.
Aside from the one instance, the CHS hurler was solidly supported defensively, right down to the final out which saw sophomore right fielder Jolie Bonderer charge to snag a line drive about shoulder-high.
Earlier, senior third sacker Halle Rucker had made three fine plays and accurate throws on balls that could have been tricky.
Like Kirksville, Chillicothe (4-2) had a bases-full chance to seize the lead, although the Lady Hornets’ opportunity arose with two outs.
Mika Hibner led off the home second with an opposite-field single to right. With one out, Bre Pithan singled her to second and a 2-outs walk to H. Rucker loaded the bags. However, Bonderer’s popup to second was easily handled, keeping it 0-0.
Pithan also gave her team a 1-out runner in scoring position her second time up when she laced a 1-down double over the left fielder’s head. Following a 2-outs wild pitch which sent her to third, another walk to H. Rucker gave Bonderer another chance. However, Stuart again won the showdown, preserving the scoreless deadlock.
Next for the CHS diamond squad is scheduled to be Thursday 5 p.m. home action against Lawson.