PHOTO: Derek Manternach of Monticello throws to first after forcing out a Wilton runner at second base July 2. The runner was safe at first. (Photo by Pete Temple)
By Pete Temple, Express Sports Editor
Monticello swept Starmont to wrap up second place in the Tri-Rivers Conference, defeated a strong Wilton team, and extended its baseball winning streak to nine before it came to an end last week.
The Panthers (25-6) closed out the Tri-Rivers Conference portion of their schedule by sweeping Starmont, thus ending with a 15-3 record, good for second place behind 18-0 Cascade.
Then, Monticello scored an impressive win over Wilton before splitting a doubleheader with Bellevue.
The Bellevue games were ironic, according to Panther head coach Josh Soper.
“Baseball can be a funny game,” he said. “I thought we didn’t play our best in game one and we ended up winning. I thought we played rather well in game two but ended up with the loss.”
Monticello won the first game 4-2, as a three-run first inning proved to be enough. Michael Reuter, Tanner Felton and Spencer Williams all had RBI singles in the decisive inning. Reuter also picked up an RBI in the second inning, driving home Sam Boyd, who had doubled.
Reuter was the winning pitcher, working the first four innings. Cody Menster pitched the last three to get a save.
“We gave them seven freebies via walks and errors,” Soper said. “Fortunately for us, we were able to make some very nice defensive plays to get out of some jams.”
Bellevue took a 2-0 lead in the second game, then fought off a Monticello rally to win 2-1.
“In game two we played much better defensively, but simply couldn’t get a timely hit at any point in the game,” Soper said. “We left 13 runners on base.”
Mason Newhard was the tough-luck losing pitcher, throwing a five-hitter with three strikeouts. Williams batted 3-for-4, while Zach Monk and Reuter had two hits apiece.
Earlier, the Panthers started the week with a sweep at Starmont, winning 6-1 and 13-0, with the second game lasting five innings. A four-run seventh inning locked up the first game for Monticello. Newhard had a two-run double, Derek Manternach had an RBI single, and Peyton Paddock scored on a wild pitch in the inning – all with two outs.
Monk pitched four innings to get the win, allowing just two hits. Newhard worked the last three in relief.
“The bottom of our order had another good offensive game for us,” Soper said.
Cody Menster pitched a three-hit shutout in the second game, striking out seven over five innings.
“Cody Menster pitched a really solid game,” Soper said. “He had gotten hurt and had to miss his last scheduled start, so it was good to get him back in the rotation.”
Williams batted 3-for-3, and Felton was 2-for-3. Boyd drove in three runs, and Newhard knocked in two.
On July 2, Wilton came to town, and the Panthers broke a 2-2 tie with a three-run sixth inning, going on to win 5-2.
“We played our best all-around game of the season,” Soper said. “No errors, we got all of our bunts down, and we had zero mental mistakes.
“Newhard came in to get the last out in the seventh and once again shut the door. Matt Holmes pitched a solid game against a very good hitting lineup. Sam Boyd made a huge catch as he collided with the wall in the sixth, a play that certainly changed the momentum of the game.”
RBI singles by Reuter, Felton and Holmes provided the sixth inning runs. Holmes pitched 6 2/3 innings and allowed seven hits while striking out six, to get the win. Monk batted 3-for-3 and scored two runs.
Following three non-conference games to start the week, the Panthers are scheduled to play MFL MarMac in the quarterfinal round of district play Saturday, July 13, 7 p.m. in Dyersville.