PHOTO: Spencer Williams delivers a single for Monticello June 20 at Cascade. (Photo by Pete Temple)
By Pete Temple, Express Sports Editor
There were at least a couple of ways to look at Monticello’s key baseball doubleheader at Cascade June 20.
On one hand, it was a setback for the Panthers, as Cascade put a stranglehold on the Tri-Rivers Conference title by sweeping both ends of the twinbill.
On the other, 10th-ranked Monticello showed it could be competitive with the third-ranked Cougars, losing each time by three-run margins, 3-0 and 5-2.
“I thought it was a great atmosphere,” Monticello coach Josh Soper said. “Two of the top 10-ranked teams in Class 2A, and there was good baseball played in both games.
“Obviously we aren’t satisfied with losing, but our kids know that we can play with them. We are a better team after playing in that environment.”
It was not an encouraging week in the win-loss column for the Panthers, who split a home doubleheader with Maquoketa Valley June 17, then lost a non-conference game at North Cedar June 18 prior to the Cascade games. The 1-4 record for the week dropped Monticello to 9-3 in the Tri-Rivers, 16-5 overall.
Monticello went to Cascade trailing the Cougars by one game, and needing a sweep to take over the conference lead. The Panthers couldn’t score, however, and the Cougars put up three runs in the bottom of the third inning, with a two-run triple by Haris Takes being the key hit.
The Panthers had six hits to Cascade’s five. Spencer Williams went 2-for-3 for MHS.
“The only different was that Cascade strung their hits together in the third to get three runs,” Soper said. “We outhit them but couldn’t string them together.”
Zach Monk took the loss on the mound despite allowing just five hits and striking out four.
“Zach Monk pitched another great game. He is having a very solid senior season.”
Cascade then took the second game 5-2, breaking a 2-2 tie with two runs in the fourth inning, and adding an insurance run in the sixth.
“We really competed in game two,” the coach said. “Our guys had to play through a lot of tough calls, and we still had our chances to win. We had six line drive outs. A hit here or there and we win this game.”
Monticello scored in the first inning on an RBI double by Michael Reuter, and in the third when Boyd scored on a passed ball.
Matt Holmes pitched four inning and took his first loss of the season. Mason Newhard worked two innings.
Earlier, Monticello started the week by losing its first Tri-Rivers game of the season, 3-2 to Maquoketa Valley June 17 in Monticello.
The Wildcats jumped ahead in the top of the first with two runs, then tacked on a run in the fifth to take a 3-1 lead. A late rally by the Panthers in the seventh, with three singles producing a single run, fell just short.
“Just like the Anamosa game earlier this season, we left too many guys on base,” Soper said. “As a team, we were 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
“This was one time where being the home team worked to our disadvantage. They came out and got three hits in the first, scoring two runs, and it allowed them to relax and play with a lead.”
Matt Manternach bagged 2-for-3, and Monk was 2-for-4.
The Panthers rebounded in the second game, as Newhard pitched a six-hit shutout with six strikeouts in a 4-0 Monticello victory. All of Monticello’s runs came in the third inning.
“I am pleased with how we bounced back in game two,” Soper said. “Mason Newhard had a big two-out RBI hit to give us some breathing room, and pitched another shutout when we needed it most. We also didn’t commit an error, and only allowed one walk.”
Between the conference doubleheaders, the Panthers went to North Cedar June 18 and lost 8-0. The most telling statistic was this: Monticello had more than twice as many errors (five) as hits (two).
“For the first time this season, we played an awful baseball game,” Soper said. “Baseball is a humbling game, and that was on display.”