CHS Invitational softball tourney at Danner Park today

Tough Macon, Savannah squads will participate

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Senior third baseman/pitcher Halle Rucker of the Chillicothe High School softball Lady Hornets, seen lacing a hit against Lawson Sept. 2, will bring a .326 batting average, a 5-1 pitching record, and two saves into today's Chillicothe Invitational tournament at Daryl Danner Memorial Park. Despite being a senior, this will be only the second CIT of Rucker's CHS career, due to a rainout in 2019 and the COVID-19-caused cancellation of the 2020 event.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

The annual Chillicothe Invitational high school girls’ softball tournament will be played today in seemingly-ideal weather at the Daryl Danner Memorial Park fields.

The first games of “pool” play will begin at 8:30 a.m. and action will continue nearly non-stop through about 7 p.m.

Nine schools will participate with the high-flying, hard-hitting host Chillicothe High School Lady Hornets figuring as top title contenders, along with Macon and Savannah as leading threats, as well.

Begun in 1998 – the third year of the CHS program’s existence, the tournament has been held annually in mid-September except for last year’s cancellation as a COVID-19 mitigation measure. It has been rained out in 2004, 2011, and 2019, so today’s event actually will be the first time in three years the CIT has occurred.

The tournament will be open to the public,  of course. Admission will be $5 per person with senior citizens (age 60 years or older) admitted free of charge.

The tourney’s format is round-robin with the clubs – Chillicothe, Hamilton: Penney, Cameron, Princeton, Putnam County, Savannah, Macon, , Maryville and Oak Grove – grouped into initial 3-teams pools that battle through the morning and into the early afternoon.

The results of those games will formulate standings/rankings for each pool. The first-place teams from each will then be grouped together for afternoon round-robin games, beginning at 2 p.m., on the Danner Park “red” field. The first-place team from that group of three will be the tournament champion with the second-place club getting runnerup hardware.

The second-place teams from each morning pool will be lumped together for afternoon play among themselves, as will the third-place teams. There will not be any awards for any of those six teams, just a chance to play a couple more games. Each participating team is assured of playing four times during the day.

Chillicothe’s Lady Hornets enter as, at worst, the co-favorite with Macon with very solid Savannah the top prospect to emerge from its “pool.”

Last year, Macon defeated the emerging CHS team, 6-3, in a regular-season contest, but the Lady Hornets pulled away in a rematch during the district tournament to win, 10-3. MHS had a strong, young pitcher, so the Tigerettes figure to be geared up for the renewal of their rivalry, which again this year could have a second chapter during the district tourney.

While Oak Grove usually has a solid team, its current season record is below .500, so it’s chances of spoiling  Chillicothe’s advancement to the championship pool look limited. The third meeting of that pool is Princeton.

While 2018 champ Hamilton: Penney technically is the “defending” champion three years removed and was Class 2 state runnerup last fall with a very good team, graduation has greatly lessened the Lady Hornets’ competitive level this year.

Grouped in the “B” pool with Macon and Cameron, the Hamilton team figures to be challenged to avoid dropping into the afternoon’s second-phase pool of third-place teams from the morning pool play. Macon projects to have a fairly easy time with Cameron, as well as Hamilton.

Savannah’s pool includes Maryville and Putnam County, neither of which should pose any problem for last year’s Class 3 state runnerup.

Should Chillicothe and Savannah both reach the championship pool (or either of the afternoon pools), they’d meet for a second time in just over a week with a third clash possible during district-tourney play – also in Chillicothe – in mid-October. CHS shut out the Lady Savages 3-0 at home on Sept. 16.