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MEC Softball Title Finally Returns to Chillicothe

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Chillicothe News

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Although their host played them somewhat tougher for four innings than might have been projected, given the disparity in their season records, the 2020 Chillicothe (Mo.) HS softball Lady Hornets finally broke out with eight runs in the top of the fifth inning Monday (Oct. 5) and scored a 14-0 triumph over St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond to clinch no worse than a share of the Midland Empire Conference title.

It is CHS’ first league laurels since 2011.

“It’s exciting to be in a position to win the MEC outright … if we can get a win Friday night” at St. Joseph: Benton, first-year CHS head coach Lee Rucker stated after Monday’s victory, which saw Chillicothe miss a perfect game by one out.

“These young ladies have worked hard all season and (assistant coach Canaan) Fairley and I are proud of this team.”

Friday’s game at Benton was due to be played a couple of weeks ago, but Benton was having COVID-19 restrictions at that time.

According to information circulated by Greg Kastner, MEC secretary, Savannah has finished conference play at 6-1. Benton is 3-1 entering three make-up games in four days, starting Tuesday (Oct. 6). If Benton wins Tuesday and Wednesday, it would create a 3-way splitting of the league crown with a decision over Chillicothe Friday; any misstep along the way before facing CHS would eliminate the Lady Cardinals.

A CHS win Friday would make it the undisputed champion.

Against Bishop LeBlond Monday, torrid Chillicothe leadoff hitter Sophia Luetticke, who entered batting over .750 in the past half-dozen games or so, continued to make it look she’s playing slow-pitch, not fast-pitch, softball.

She stroked a leadoff single to begin the game – one of sixth Lady Hornets singles in the 4-runs top of the first inning – and would finish three for four with the bat. While that actually was a fraction under her incomprehensible recent pace, it still lifted her overall season batting average to .617, .067 higher than the team record Abby Smith sent two years ago.

Luetticke’s bat was far from the only one doing damage for CHS.

Junior cleanup girl Mika Hibner continued her recent surge with two hits and three runs batted in. Sophomore winning pitcher Kinlei Boley (7-2) matched Luetticke’s 3-for-4 day while also retiring all nine batters she faced. Sophomore Bre Pithan had two hits and two RBI, senior Mollie Ellis two runs driven in, and classmate Brooke Horton a pair of hits.

Five of Chillicothe’s 16 hits went for extra bases, three of those in the 8-runs top of the fifth that positioned the visitors for a 5-innings verdict.

With its first 14 batters of the game set down in order and trailing by 14 runs, BLHS was an out away from having Boley and reliever Halle Rucker combine for a “perfecto,” but a single to center field on a 1-2 pitch prevented it. Another hit and an error followed before H. Rucker fielded a comebacker and threw to first for the out that at least preserved the Lady Hornets’ third shutout victory of the season.

“We got solid pitching performances from Kinlei Boley and Halle Rucker and the defense was solid all night,” complimented the Chillicothe head coach.

Offensively, the 16 hits was the third time this season the Lady Hornets have collected at least that many.

“Another strong night at the plate,” coach Rucker acknowledged.

CHS has a non-league outing at Putnam County slated for Tuesday (Oct. 6) before the potential clincher at Benton on Friday.