CHS in 6 p.m. softball state quarterfinal at Holden tonight
Tickets must be purchased digitally; Lady Hornets lost to foe previously
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
Opponents with first-hand knowledge of each other, and yet one without one important piece of first-hand intel, will clash tonight at Holden’s Stub Roberts Memorial Softball Field to see which gets to journey on to Springfield for next week’s Class 3 state high school softball tournament semifinals and finals.
The Chillicothe High School Lady Hornets (28-4) will test Holden’s 20-7 Lady Eagles for a second time this season, but, barring unforeseen developments, for the first time with junior pitching ace Kinlei Boley (20-3) toeing the rubber.
Game time at Holden is set for 6 p.m. Fans attending must purchase their tickets digitally (can be accomplished any time, even as late as walking up to the field at 508 West Chestnut St. Holden). The admission for everyone is $7, reports Dan Nagel, CHS director of athletics.
The Missouri State High School Activities Association’s ticket purchasing procedure, as relayed by Nagel, is:
1. Access the MSHSAA website https://www.mshsaa.org
2. Click on the "Hometown Ticketing" banner near the top right side of the MSHSAA Homepage.
3. Select "Class 3"
4. Select "Fall Softball"
5. Finally, select "GET TICKETS" for Class 3 quarterfinal 4 Holden vs. Chillicothe
6. Bring your ticket codes to be scanned at the admission gate on Game Day. Tickets must be purchased as outlined above. No cash sales at the gate. All tickets are digital. All Tickets are $7.00 with no reserved seating.
When the two squads take the diamond, they’ll be trying to nab one of the Class 3 state semifinals berth for the Friday, Oct. 9, 2 p.m. game at the Killian Softball Complex at Springfield.
Chillicothe has been there once before – exactly 10 years ago – when it advanced to the title game, before losing to Centralia 2-0.
The obstacle between the 2021 Lady Hornets and Springfield is a club which deceptively defeated CHS 11-4 on Aug. 28 in the final game of the bracket of eight teams which had placed second the day before in their respective “pools” of the Greater Kansas City Suburban Invitational.
Understanding even then the potential for a key postseason clash with the fellow Class 3 team, Hornets head coach Lee Rucker did not pitch Boley against the Lady Eagles.
Even with the use of only top backup Halle Rucker and very lightly-experienced Hadley Beemer in that game, the Lady Hornets had a 4-3 lead after three innings after combining five singles with a walk in a 6-batters stretch to plate four third-inring tallies.
However, in the top of the fourth, as the HHS lineup got its third look at H. Rucker’s deliveries, it used three 1-out hits in a row to tie the game and knock H. Rucker out en route to a 5-runs inning. Another three markers off Beemer in the fifth put the game out of Chillicothe’s reach.
While she had only mixed success pitching in that game, H. Rucker, who usually plays third base, but also has started at first this season, says she’s willing take on whichever of those chores her coach/father throws her way.
“I’ve played a lot of positions since I first started playing (softball), so it’s not new to me to have to move around a lot,” she related to the C-T last Saturday.
“My dad actually has been my coach since I first started playing even basketball when I was five years old, so it’s not new for me or him. … I like having him as my coach.”
Holden ripped 18 hits in the August game, but Chillicothe had 11. Hope Helton, Boley (playing third base), Mika Hibner and Bre Pithan produced two hits each and Dawsyn Lightner drove in two runs.
Whether either of the two pitchers Holden threw for three innings apiece was the Lady Eagles’ top pitcher is not clear, but the second one they used held Chillicothe scoreless on three hits over the last three innings.
“That was over two months ago. A lot of things change.” Chillicothe head coach Lee Rucker said, after last Saturday’s district title clinching, of Holden and the prior meeting.
“They’ve got some good hitters. They’re very solid all the way around. They’ve got solid pitching.”
If Chillicothe gets the job done at Holden today, it would be another instance of evening the score with an opponent which has previously beaten the Lady Hornets, either this season or in postseason play in recent years.
“We’ve kind of talked about a ‘revenge’ tour because Kirksville beat these (senior) girls in the district championship (game) two years in a row and then Savannah got us last year,” shared coach Rucker. “Now Holden’s the next target on that ‘tour.’”
The Lady Hornets have shattered many individual and team records along the way this season and would like to create a fitting ending to arguably the program’s greatest-ever season with its first state crown.
“We’re going to focus on one game at a time,” senior outfielder and records-smashing leadoff batter Sophia Luetticke told the C-T after last Saturday’s win. “I really want to win this (quarterfinal) game because I feel like we can make it all the way.”
Among the new team records Luetticke already has set this season are most hits (current 68; old record was 46 she had last year), runs scored (63, also obliterating record she broke last year), and batting average (currently .660, about .100 over the standard she also set in 2020).
Helton and Boley, the Nos. 2 and 3 batters in the CHS order behind Luetticke, have driven in 43 runs apiece thus far this year, busting the record of 36 Boley set last year.