PHOTO: Lael Lubben rounds the bases after hitting a home run July 5 against Bellevue. (Photo courtesy of Dianna Rucker, Rucker Photography)
By Pete Temple, Express Sports Editor
The most significant development for the Monticello High School softball team last week did not involve a Panther game.
Instead, the Panthers got word Wednesday evening, July 3, that Starmont had earned a doubleheader split with Cascade. It gave Cascade a second Tri-Rivers Conference loss, and left Monticello as the sole conference champion.
“We heard about it that night,” Monticello coach Tiffany Rave said. “We would have had a share of the title anyway, but it’s more fun when you don’t have to share it. It says a lot about your seniors and their leadership.”
The Panthers can now say they are outright Tri-Rivers champions for the third year in a row. That the news came the night before Independence Day worked out well; the players got to celebrate together as they rode on a float for Monticello’s July 4 parade.
The seniors got another chance to shine Friday, July 5, as they were honored for Senior Night during the Panthers’ doubleheader sweep of Bellevue in Monticello.
Those seniors include Lael Lubben, Allison Kraus, Paxtyn Keleher, Erin Hosch, Hannah Thompson, Andrea Bone and Anna Finger.
Monticello dominated the Bellevue doubleheader, winning by scores of 5-0 and 11-1, the latter in five innings.
In the first game, the Panthers belted three home runs – Allison Kraus, Sonya McCormick and Lubben did the honors. Kraus’ two-run homer came in the Panthers’ three-run first inning that set the tone for the game.
“We had been talking a lot about not letting so many good pitches go by,” Rave said. “In the first game we attacked the ball on offense.”
Erin Hosch pitched a three-hit gem, striking out 12 and walking none. Keleher batted 3-for-3, while Allison Kraus, McCormick and Lubben had two hits apiece.
Hosch started the second game, pitching two innings, and Thompson worked the last three. They combined on a five-hitter with five strikeouts and no walks.
Meanwhile, the offense collected 10 hits, led by Allison Kraus, who was 3-for-3 with a double. Keleher went 2-for-3. Kori Bohlken and Bone drove in two runs apiece; Bone had a triple.
On Saturday morning, July 6, the Panthers put together another strong game at Western Dubuque, winning 6-0. Hosch fired a four-hitter with nine strikeouts. Allison Kraus was 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
The Panthers scored five of their runs during the first two innings.
“Again, the girls came out, bats firing,” Rave said. “And it was good to have a single game (instead of a doubleheader), preparing for the (regional) tournament,” Rave said.
The Panthers were scheduled to open regional play July 9 at home against Oelwein. The winner will face either Independence or Anamosa Friday, July 12, 7 p.m. in Monticello.