PHOTO: Andrea Bone steals third base for Monticello in the eighth inning of the first game against Cascade July 1 in Monticello. (Photo by Pete Temple)
By Pete Temple, Express Sports Editor
For the third straight year, the Monticello High School softball team can claim a Tri-Rivers Conference championship.
For the time being, it’s just a share of the title. The Panthers split a key Tri-Rivers home doubleheader against Cascade in a pair of down-to-the-wire contests Monday, July 1 in Monticello.
The Panthers (15-1, 25-6) won the first one 1-0 when Lael Lubben delivered a walk-off RBI single, scoring Andrea Bone in the bottom of the eighth.
In the second contest, Cascade’s Riley Takes hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning, and pitcher Lynsey Dolphin made it stand, as the Panthers lost 2-1.
“We told them, these are exactly the kind of ballgames we need,” Monticello coach Tiffany Rave said. “This is what it’s going to come down to in a week (during the post-season).
The results left each team with one conference loss. Cascade still has to play at Starmont July 3, and a sweep for the Cougars would mean they share the crown with Monticello. If Starmont wins either game, the Panthers will win the title outright.
In Monday’s first game, the teams were scoreless through seven innings.
Panther pitcher Erin Hosch sent the Cougars down in the top of the eighth with a quick 1-2-3 inning, the third out coming on a sharp line drive snared by second baseman Macey Spensley.
Then came the bottom of the eighth. Bone’s sharp grounder got by an infielder for an error, and Sonya McCormick sacrificed Bone to second. Bone then stole third, and Lubben lined her game-winning single to left to bring Bone home with the winning run.
Monticello also had a 1-0 lead in the second game, as Allison Kraus hit an RBI double in the third inning to score McCormick.
After the homer by Takes put the Cougars ahead, the Panthers got runners to second in three different innings, but couldn’t score.
“We played hard like we always do,” Lubben said.
LAST WEEK’S GAMES
Prior to the Cascade games, the Panthers played six games last week, winning five of them.
Included were a pair of doubleheader sweeps of conference opponents. First, the Panthers traveled to Edgewood-Colesburg June 26, and won by scores of 13-1 in six innings and 13-0 in three.
The first game wasn’t put away until Monticello scored eight runs in the top of the sixth inning. Allison Kraus hit a two-run triple in the inning, during which the Panthers sent 12 batters to the plate.
Paxtyn Keleher went 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Allison Kraus drove in three runs total, and Andrea Bone had two RBIs.
Erin Hosch pitched a two-hitter for the win, striking out 12 Vikings.
Hannah Thompson fired a two-hit shutout in the second game, striking out three over three innings. Monticello put the game away early, scoring nine runs in the top of the first inning. Lael Lubben had a two-run double, and Bone hit a two-run single during the inning. Lubben finished with three RBIs; Thompson and Bone had two apiece.
“Defensively we played focused softball,” Monticello coach Tiffany Rave said. “Hannah and Erin both threw great games, and our offense was patient at the plate.”
On June 27, Monticello remained unbeaten in the conference with two close, home wins over Alburnett.
The visiting Pirates led the first game 1-0 until the Panthers tied it in the bottom of the fifth on a double by Keleher, a sacrifice by Hosch, and an RBI single by Thompson.
In the bottom of the eighth, Sonya McCormick reached base on an error. Kennedy Kraus laid down a sacrifice bunt, and an error allowed McCormick to come around with the winning run.
Hosch pitched all eight innings, allowing five hits and striking out four. Thompson went 2-for-3 at the plate.
Alburnett again took the lead in the second game, scoring two runs in the top of the first. The Panthers tied the game on a two-run single by Kori Bohlken in the third. In the sixth, two runs scored on an Alburnett error, and Andrea Bone scored on a double by McCormick.
Thompson pitched the first six innings to get the win, giving up just one hit. Hosch pitched the seventh to get a save.
The Panthers also lost a 3-2 decision to West Delaware June 28 in Monticello, and beat Preston 12-3 June 29. That game was part of the Northeast tournament in Goose Lake, but the rest of the tournament was wiped out by rain.