Shocking softball loss part of tough Tuesday for CHS teams

Putnam County halts diamond girls’ record wins streak; harriers solid

As reported to C-T

Aside from the tennis Lady Hornets’ turning back the Lady Tigers of Excelsior Springs in their district tournament semifinal match, setting up their stirring title-round triumph at Trenton the next night, and solid showings by the cross country runners at Excelsior Springs, last Tuesday was not particularly kind to Chillicothe High School sports squads.

While the cross country running Lady Hornets were finishing fourth among eight teams and the Hornets fifth of nine while combining to have seven medal recipients (top-40 individual finish) in the Excelsior Springs Invitational, the softball Lady Hornets were having their program-record 17-games winning streak stunningly stopped in extra innings at home by Putnam County, the golf Lady Hornets were seeing their chance at an undefeated (in dual matches) season vaporize at nearly the last minute, and the volleyball Lady Hornets fall to an opponent it also had defeated previously.

SOFTBALL

At the Daryl Danner Memorial Park fields complex, the CHS diamond girls found a much-different foe than the one they had dispatched 9-1 in five innings during the Putnam County Invitational on Sept. 11.

Lady Midgets pitcher Claire Tipton, rocked for seven runs – all earned – on seven hits and two walks in only four innings in the tourney contest, made the CHS hitting dropoff hinted at in the Lady Hornets’ previous couple of outings erupt into a full-fledged sticks shutdown.

The PCHS righthander surrendered a run on one hit and a groundout in the first inning and then singles to the first two Chillicothe batters in the second. However, when her fielders bailed her out a bit by throwing out a Lady Hornet trying to score from second on that second-straight single, Tipton took charge.

She allowed only two more hits – both Sophia Luetticke singles – and three baserunners while blanking Chillicothe the rest of the way and then capped her spotlight role by ripping a solo home run just over the fence in left field in the top of the eighth to snap a 1-1 tie Putnam County had created in the seventh.

In a surprising show of overwhelming the usually-potent CHS batters, Tipton finished with 10 strikeouts and only one walk while holding the Lady Hornets to only five hits. Chillicothe had raked at least 10 hits – and often far more – in each of its preceding 17-straight victories.

The tying rally by the Lady Midgets came with a key, odd play which nearly bailed Chillicothe out of a big jam.

After a bloop hit to left-center field off ace pitcher Kinlei Boley began the top of the seventh, putting the tying run on base, Chillicothe was slow to react to a sacrifice bunt attempt, which instead went for a basehit.

Another bunt followed, this time moving the runners up to third and second as the batter was retired.

With the CHS infielders in, guarding against another bunt play or a tap which might let the tying run score from third base cheaply, righthanded-hitting Kerbie Willier slashed a low line drive right toward drawn-in first baseman Mika Hibner.

Hibner speared it at about ground level and, believing she’d caught the ball in the air for the second out, saw the lead runner dashing toward home plate. Thinking she had plenty of time to throw to third base to double that runner off, the CHS fielder calmly turned and threw the ball there even as the runner from second was dashing there.

As the ball arrived at third, it became clear that neither the home plate umpire – who had the nearest and clearest view of Hibner’s spearing of the ball – nor the bases umpire – positioned behind the shortstop, due to the second-and-third situation – had considered the fielder’s snag as a catch in the air, but rather on a very, very short hop. As such, the baserunners could advance freely without “tagging up” and the batter was not out either. The result, instead of a narrow 1-0 CHS win, was the game being tied with runners at the corners.

After the trailing runner stole second uncontested, Boley got a strikeout of the next batter on a fouled 2-strikes bunt attempt and then whiffed the next Lady Midget after seeing a handful of 2-strikes pitches fouled off.

Escaping still tied gave Chillicothe a chance to walk off with a win by scoring in the bottom of the seventh, but Tipton fanned the side. Then, after falling behind on the count 0-2 in the top of the eighth and then watching three pitches out of the strike zone go by, Tipton lofted the ball beyond the left-field barrier to put her team in front, 2-1.

When she set CHS down in order for a third-straight frame in the bottom of the eighth, concluding a game-ending streak of 10 in a row retired, the Lady Hornets were denied – at least for a while – their program-record 26th victory of the season as their mark dipped to 25-4.

“We faced a really good pitcher who threw a great game,” CHS coach Lee Rucker commented. “Kinlei threw a great game for us as well.

“In games like this, the team that makes the fewest mistakes usually wins and that is what happened. We made some mistakes throughout the game and they eventually took advantage of them.”

Coach Rucker hopes the unexpected and undesired loss can become helpful to his team, eliminating focus on the long, long winning streak and redirecting it to the upcoming district tournament.

“This may have been the perfect time for us to lose a game,”  he stated. “We just need to bounce back, have some great practices over the next few days, and get ready for Trenton on Monday and Maryville on Tuesday.”

The Trenton contest will be the regular-season finale and the Tuesday contest the opening-round game of the Class 3 District 8 tournament Chillicothe will host next week.

CHS director of athletics Dan Nagel told the C-T, the first-round schedule for the district tourney will have back-to-back games being played simultaneously on Danner Park’s “red” and “blue” fields. The first game on each will start at 5 p.m. Tuesday. Chillicothe’s contest with Maryville will be the second game on the “red” field.

The semifinal games will be on the “red “ field Thursday, with the opener at 5 p.m. and the finale – which would involve CHS, if it wins Tuesday – at approximately 7 p.m.

The championship game is slated for Saturday, Oct. 16, at 1 p.m. on the “red” field.

Chillicothe is the tournament’s No. 1 seed, followed by Kirksville, Macon, and Savannah.

CROSS COUNTRY RUNNING

On what CHS coach Jennifer Dickson termed a “super-hilly” course, Chillicothe’s 5K runners produced consistently strong performances at Excelsior Springs.

Lady Hornets senior Kadence Shipers again led the CHS girls, running a 23:30 which earned her 12th place. Freshman Cain Evans continued to be the top Hornet, taking 14th in the varsity boys’ division in 19:20.

Joining Shipers in earning a medal for the Chillicothe girls were freshman Yoo Jung Lee (20th, 24:28), Juliann Gabrielson (25th, 24:41), and Alice Hurtgen (32nd, 25.32).

Clayton Savage (34th, 20:29) and Austin Lyford (36th, 20:32) joined Evans in picking up boys’ race medals.

“This is a pretty tough meet, both in course difficulty and team competition,” Dickson commented. “Both the girls’ and boys’ teams competed well and I was pleased to see their times weren't far off from last meet (Savannah), which was very fast and flat. This course is on the golf course and is nothing but large hill after large hill.”

The coach also pointed out that “Every returning (CHS) runner ran minutes faster than they did last year. Those little improvements add up in the end.”

Chillicothe’s Luke Thompson won the meet’s 1.5-miles middle school boys’ division race with a time of 8:15. With Luke Englert and Litton Gabrielson also placing in the top five, CMS won the boys’ division crown over five other teams, Dickson relates.

The Chillicothe runners will compete at Kearney’s big annual meet today (Saturday, Oct. 9).

Junior Izzie Montgomery of the Chillicothe High School golf Lady Hornets hits a drive on her way to a match co-medalist round of 47 during Tuesday's home clash with Brookfield and Tina-Avalon.

GIRLS’ GOLF

Brookfield had all five of its varsity-lineup members shoot 54 or below, paced by co-medalist Scarlet Polson’s 47, as the Lady Bulldogs posted a 201 low-4 team score that bested Chillicothe’s by eight shots Tuesday.

CHS junior Izzie Montgomery shared match medalist status with Thompson, using a mid-round string of three pars in a row to help fashion her 47.

Chillicothe’s other team scorers were Reese Cooper – in her first varsity-match appearance – and Clara Leamer with 53s and Abbey Hayen with a 56. Not used was Essie Hicks’ 63.

Cooper was playing the No. 5 position for the Lady Hornets, due to the absence of top Lady Hornet Skyler Powers.

Also competing in Tuesday’s play was the Tina-Avalon Lady Dragons team, who posted a 245 team total.

Olivia Wooden led the Lady Dragons with a 56, followed by Maggie Brockmeier’s 61, Emma Suchsland’s 63, Paige Brown’s 65, Reagin Haynes’ 69, and Addie Crockett’s 71.

One of Chillicothe’s four junior-varsity players, Caylee Anderson had an outstanding day with a 49, including a birdie on the par-4 eighth hole.

The golfers were to conclude their regular season Thursday with a make-up of a Sept. 30 rainout at Lawson. Hamilton also is due to be involved.

The golf Lady Hornets then will play in their Class 2 District tournament at Excelsior Springs Monday.

VOLLEYBALL

A 3-0 home victor over St. Joseph: Lafayette in a Midland Empire Conference match late last month, the CHS spikers couldn’t make it two wins over the Lady Irish despite a big effort, dropping a hard-fought 4-games match 19-25, 23-25, 25-22, 22-25 at the LHS gym Tuesday.

Chillicothe (10-11) had 26 “digs” from sophomore Delanie Kieffer, 17 assists, 12 “digs” and three service aces from junior Jessica Reeter, and 15 “kills” (spikes) from junior forward Anna Fisher. Junior Trista Tipton chipped in 15 “digs,” as well, head coach Bob Long reports.

The volleyball Lady Hornets had a MEC match at Savannah Thursday. Monday and Tuesday, they’ll host Hamilton: Penney and St. Joseph Christian as they start the countdown to the start of the postseason in less than two weeks.