By Pete Temple, Express Sports Editor
Monticello’s baseball team is no doubt hoping that this knack for winning close games continues throughout the season.
The Panthers (3-1) won another pair of close ones in recent action, knocking off Center Point-Urbana 5-3 in eight innings May 24 at Center Point, and rallying to edge Vinton-Shellsburg 7-6 May 31 in Monticello.
A two-run top of the eighth inning was the difference in the CP-U game. In the eighth, Matt Holmes was hit by a pitch, and Derek Manternach’s sacrifice bunt advanced Holmes to second.
Holmes then went to third on a ground out by Matt Manternach, and Sam Boyd followed with a clutch, two-out single to score Holmes with the go-ahead run. Boyd then moved to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a single by Zach Monk.
“That’s two nights in a row that Sam Boyd has come through with an RBI hit in extra innings,” Monticello coach Josh Soper said. “As a team, we hit the ball very well all game.”
The Panthers also scored twice in the fourth inning on Matt Manternach’s two-run double, and once in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Mason Newhard.
Monk finished 3-for-4, and Matt Manternach was 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
Monk was also the starting pitcher, working six innings and allowing no earned runs. Newhard worked the last two, allowing no hits, striking out two and picking up the win.
“Zach Monk had a quality start in his first time pitching in a varsity game,” Soper said. “He pitched very well and battled through some defensive mistakes that we made.
“Michael Reuter did a nice job throwing out base runners early on, which shut off their running game. Matt Holmes was also solid defensively and scored two runs, including the game-winner.”
Because poor weather caused two games last week to be postponed, the Panthers didn’t play again until a week later, May 31 at home against Vinton-Shellsburg.
“Both teams had a full week off due to all the rain, and it showed,” Soper said. “But we battled through the mistakes. Guys just keep battling every pitch. They pick each other up, and that was evident several times.”
The Panthers had to come from behind twice. Down 2-0 in the second inning, they scored four times to take a 4-2 lead. Tanner Felton had a two-run triple, Boyd had a sacrifice fly, and Reuter had an RBI single.
After the Vikings regained the lead, 6-4 through four innings, the Panthers mounted another comeback. In the fifth, Reuter led off with a double and Spencer Williams singled him home to cut the lead to 6-5.
Then, the Panthers scored twice in the bottom of the sixth. Holmes was hit by a pitch and later scored on a wild pitch. Boyd had an RBI single to bring home Derek Manternach with the eventual winning run.
Holmes pitching in relief of starter Reuter and Newhard, worked the last two innings and got the win.
Reuter finished 2-for-3. Holmes was 1-for-1 and scored two runs.
“Matt Holmes has put a lot of work into his swing this offseason and his getting early results. I am really proud of his work ethic and drive to be a solid all-around baseball players.
“Mason Newhard also made several nice defensive plays in the infield.”