Five victories for Panthers in eight-game stretch

Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

In the first two weeks of the high school softball season, the Monticello Panthers played a total of three games. 


Last week’s games more than tripled that total; the Panthers played eight, winning five of those, for a season record of 5-6. 

Included were a River Valley Conference sweep of a doubleheader against North Cedar, a dramatic walkoff win over West Branch, and a loss at Tipton; followed by a 2-2 record at the Jesup Invitational. 


The 3-1 conference record for the week left the Panthers with a 3-3 mark in RVC play. 


Monticello started the hectic week by sweeping North Cedar at home, 5-1 and 11-2. 


The first North Cedar game was tight through five innings. The Panthers scored in the first two innings to take a 2-0 lead, and North Cedar answered with a run in the fourth. 


In the bottom of the sixth, Sydney Hansen changed the game by delivering a two-run homer to left field. 


“That gave us a lot of breathing room,” Monticello coach Bret McDonald said. 


The blast was part of a three-run inning which gave the Panthers a 5-1 lead, and the Knights couldn’t respond in the seventh. 


Jaelynn Kraus pitched a three-hitter, striking out eight and walking two. Hansen and Lainy Fellinger both went 2-for-3 at the plate. Tori McDonald, Lainy Fellinger and Jordan Kuper hit doubles. 


“Jaelynn pitched really well, I thought, and (offensively) we put a lot of balls in play,” McDonald said. 


Monticello took control early in the second game, sending 11 batters to the plate and scoring seven runs in the bottom of the first inning. 


“It’s usually hard to recover from that,” McDonald said. “Our kids were hitting the ball hard.” 


The Panthers increased the lead to 10-0 through three innings, and went on to win 11-2. 


Reese Cox pitched a five-hitter for the win. 


“Reese did a great job,” the coach said. “She battled out of some tough situations, and our defense supported her really well.” 


Monticello had 10 hits, including two each from Jaelyn Aitchison, Maddie Fellinger, Lainy Fellinger and Kuper. Lainy Fellinger had three RBIs, and Aitchison had a triple and two RBIs. 


The Panthers and visiting West Branch Bears played a wild, back-and-forth game June 4 in Monticello that ended with a 13-12 Panther victory. 


Monticello held leads of 6-2 and 9-3, and West Branch scored three times in the fourth and five in the sixth to take an 11-9 edge. 


Two runs in the bottom of the sixth for the Panthers tied it 11-11, and then the Bears answered to gain a 12-11 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh. 


“We had our 2-3-4 hitters coming up,” McDonald said. “I thought, ‘If the leadoff kid gets on, we can win the game.’ ” 


Aspen Gillmore complied by drawing a walk. A West Branch error with Jaelynn Kraus batting allowed Gillmore to score to tie the game, and Kraus ended up on third with nobody out. 


Coach McDonald called for a bunt, and Hansen tapped the ball toward the pitcher. Kraus dashed for home and slid in with the winning run, as the throw was late, giving the Panthers a walkoff win. 


The Panthers finished with 1- hits, led by Hansen, who was 3-for-5 with four RBIs. Kuper was 2-for-4, and McDonald was 1-for-2 with a double and two RBIs. Lainy Fellinger and Kraus also doubled during the game. Aitchison had two stolen bases. Kraus was the winning pitcher. 


On June 6, the Panthers traveled to Tipton for a single varsity game, and lost by a score of 11-7. Monticello trailed 5-4 in the sixth inning, but the Tigers scored six runs in the bottom of the sixth to open a bigger lead. 


McDonald said the team had a chance to break open a big early lead, but two hard-hit balls by Kraus and Hansen in the first inning were caught, and the Panthers were held to a single run in the first. 


“They both just smoked them,” the coach said. “I thought that turned the game.” 


Kraus was 2-for-4 with two doubles and four runs batted in. Aitchison and Lainy Fellinger had two hits apiece. Kraus pitched and took the loss. 


Monticello then had four more games over the weekend, in the Jesup Invitational, and won two out of four. The first tournament game for Monti was a 7-2 loss to North Fayette Valley. Gillmore had two of the Panthers’ four hits. Kraus hit a double. 


The Panthers then scored a 12-5, five-inning win over Edgewood-Colesburg. A nine-run first inning for Monticello set the tone early. The Panthers had eight hits – including a 2-for-2 effort from Tori McDonald – and took advantage of five Ed-Co errors. Aitchison pitched five innings to earn the win. 


“The girls did a pretty good job of not trying to do too much at the plate,” coach McDonald said. 


On Saturday, Monticello recorded a 13-2 romp over Wapsie Valley in six innings. Monticello broke the game open with a seven-run sixth inning. Gillmore and Kraus both went 3-for-4; Gillmore had two doubles. Cox pitched a four-hitter for the win. 


“Reese did a nice job of keeping the ball down, and we took care of the game the way I thought we would,” the coach said. 


The Panthers finished the tournament opened with a 3-1 loss to West Branch on Friday. Monticello was held to one hit. Aitchison pitched a strong game, allowing five hits and striking out seven over six innings. 


“That was a well-played softball game,” coach McDonald said. “We had our chances to score, but did not come up with the big hit, and they did. That was the difference.”


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