PHOTO: Lael Lubben of Monticello bunts for a hit during the Springville doubleheader June 10. (Photo by Pete Temple)
By Pete Temple, Express Sports Editor
While learning that they can be a dominant force in the Tri-Rivers Conference this season, the sixth-ranked Monticello Panthers also proved their ability against stronger competition.
It was a nine-game week for the Panthers (8-0, 15-2), who won eight of those games. While a winning streak that reached 14 was finally snapped during the West Delaware Tournament June 14-15 in Manchester, Monticello did come away with a third place finish.
“We played some great softball this weekend,” Monticello coach Tiffany Rave said. “We faced four very different pitchers throughout the weekend, and adjusted well to manufacture runs when necessary.”
The Panthers opened the tournament with a 3-0 shutout of Oelwein on Friday, as Erin Hosch pitched a four-hitter and struck out 10. Getting two hits apiece were Lael Lubben, Allison Kraus, Andrea Bone and Hosch. Allison Kraus hit a triple.
Monticello then rallied from a 3-0 deficit to top Independence 6-4. The Panthers scored three runs in fourth inning and three in the fifth. They totaled 10 hits, with Kennedy Kraus and Lubben both going 2-for-3, each with a double. Hosch, pitching in relief of Hannah Thompson, picked up the win.
On Saturday, the winning streak was halted in a 2-1 loss to West Delaware. The Panthers left nine runners on base. Lubben was 2-for-3 at the plate. Hosch took the loss despite pitching a two-hitter with nine strikeouts.
That put the Panthers into the third place game, and they bounced back with a 3-0 win over Crestwood. Hosch pitched a seven-hit shutout, Bone went 2-for-2, and Thompson hit a double.
Hosch and Lubben were named to the all-tournament team.
Monticello picked up five more wins earlier in the week, including four within conference play. The Panthers swept Springville 11-3 and 8-2 June 10 in Monticello. MHS spotted the Orioles a 2-0 lead in the first game, but scored 11 over the next two. Mara Mescher batted 3-for-4. Hosch pitched for the win.
Lubben was 3-for-4 with three RBIs in the second game, and Kennedy Kraus went 2-for-3. Thompson pitched for the win, allowing six hits and striking out four.
“I was very proud of our defense,” Rave said. “We did a great job of finishing plays and backing up Erin and Hannah on the mound.”
On June 11, Monticello played a non-conference home game against Midland of Wyoming, and won 10-0 in five innings. Hosch and Thompson combined on a one-hitter. Allison Kraus was 3-for-4 with a double and three RBIs.
“The girls did an excellent job of putting the ball in play hard,” Rave said.
The toughest conference game was June 13 at Maquoketa Valley, when the Panthers rallied from a 5-1 deficit to beat MV 6-5 in the first game of a doubleheader. Getting two hits each were Allison Kraus, Paxtyn Keleher, Lubben and Hosch.
“We had some defensive errors that put us down, and we were able to work through it and come from behind to win,” the coach said.
Monticello then won the second game 12-2, collecting 13 hits, including a two-run homer by Kori Bohlken. Lubben was 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Kennedy Kraus and Allison Kraus knockedin two runs apiece. Thompson pitched a two-hitter with four strikeouts.