CHS bat attack continues devastation
Wins streak grows to record-tying 15 with early-week victories
By the time this article appears in print Saturday, Chillicothe High School’s softball Lady Hornets either will have seen their program-record-tying winning streak snapped or be on the threshold of adding another mark to the new one established Thursday when they hosted Macon.
The CHS diamond girls crushed Hamilton 19-2 in five innings and Kansas City: St. Pius X 15-0 in three early this week to elevate their pile of consecutive victories to 15. That matched the 2008 Chillicothe squad for most Ws in a row in team history.
If, on Thursday, they repeated last weekend’s victory over Macon – no sure thing, the 2021 club will own yet another mark all to itself and, at 24-3, stand one victory away from equaling the program record for most victories in a season.
On last Monday’s short trip to Hamilton, aside from extending at least two team and three individual program records they’ve co-opted already this fall, moving to the brink of tying another team mark, approaching still one more, and taking a run at a single-game program record that was only two days old, the Chillicothe High School softball Lady Hornets didn’t get much done Monday. Other than hammering Hamilton: Penney’s Lady Hornets, the graduation-weakened 2020 Class 2 state runnersup.
Chillicothe figured to have no problem winning and didn’t, especially not after parading 10 runs across home plate in the top of the third inning to turn a surprisingly-tight 1-0 game into a blowout. CHS added three runs in the fourth and five in the fifth to make certain the 10-runs-lead rule would apply after five.
Having already obliterated the previous team records for runs and hits in a season, as well as senior leadoff hitter Sophia Luetticke having surpassed her 2020 team record for hits and runs scored and Hope Helton having zipped past classmate Kinlei Boley’s year-old gold standard for runs batted in for a season, Chillicothe’s marauding squad kept the gas pedal floored on offense.
By the time the final out was recorded, it had collected 23 more hits, merely three fewer than the brand-new record it set while defeating Savannah this past Saturday. Eight of its batters – including one reserve – had multi-hits contests and five had more than one run batted in.
Helton drove in only one run, bringing her team record total to 39, but senior Mika Hibner knocked in two to increase her total to 34 and former record-holder Boley plated four teammates to lift her 2021 total to 33. At this pace, much like Major League Baseball’s legendary 1998 home runs duel between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, Helton might far surpass the former record and not even end the season in the all-time top spot.
One key contributing factor for Helton’s current status, aside from her own outstanding hitting – she ended Monday’s game with a .512 batting average after going merely one for three – is being right behind the speedy and skilled Luetticke in the order.
With a perfect 3-for-3 day at Hamilton, the lefty-swinging senior rocketed her batting average back over .650 (.651). Her team-most 54 hits were eight more than the season record she set as a junior and her 52 runs scored are a dozen more than her 2020 record-setting figure.
Of all the individual excellence on display during Monday’s CHS win, including sophomore extra hitter Hadley Beemer smacking a double and triple in four at-bats and knocking in three runs, the best day might have been contributed by junior reserve Katelynn Fleener.
Pinch-hitting for starting shortstop Kirsten Dunn (two for two plus a walk herself and now batting .464) in the top of the fourth, Fleener singled home fellow sub Adra Stretch. Then, in the fifth, she pounded a 1-out double past the left fielder to plate Boley and Hibner, leaving Fleener two for two with three RBI on the afternoon.
“This team is hitting the ball very consistently right now,” Chillicothe head coach Lee Rucker commented in a massive understatement. “It is fun to watch them go out and play.”
As if any pitching quality was needed, CHS received that, too, at Hamilton’s expense.
Starter and winner Boley (13-2) was perfect through her 3-innings stint, fanning seven of the nine Penney High batters she faced.
Reliever Beemer was touched for three hits and two runs – one unearned – in going the last two frames.
Tuesday's predictable rout of St. Pius X almost certainly could have been a perfect game for starting and winning pitcher Boley (14-2) had she or coach Rucker sought it. Instead, she was removed after striking out all six batters she faced on only 26 pitches, with H. Rucker fanning the first Lady Warrior she faced in the third, as well, before a single to right field gave SPX its only baserunner and hit.
While Chillicothe ripped 11 hits in only two at-bats in a game that lasted less than an hour, a good portion of the time used occurred while five CHS batters were walked, several with the bases full.
The best day with the bat was done by Dunn. She went two for three with two runs driven in and two scored. Beemer provided three runs batted in.
Luetticke added one to her season hits record and two to her runs mark and Helton tacked on another RBI to her team-record total.