PHOTO: Zach Monk drops a sacrifice bunt for Monticello in the district quarterfinal win over MFL MarMac July 13 in Dyersville. (Photo by Pete Temple)
By Pete Temple, Express Sports Editor
Matt Holmes pitched a three-hit shutout, Spencer Williams went 4-for-4 with four runs batted in, and the Monticello baseball team eliminated MFL MarMac in the first round of the Class 2A district tournament Saturday, July 13 in Dyersville.
The Panthers (29-6) broke open a 3-0 game with two runs in the fifth inning and five in the sixth to complete a 10-0 victory. The win advanced Monticello to the semifinal round, where it was scheduled to face Cascade July 16, also in Dyersville.
“We played another solid all-around game,” Monticello coach Josh Soper said. “No errors on defense, and we manufactured runs on offense. It is always nice to get the first playoff game out of the way.”
Monticello found some creative ways to score in this contest. In the bottom of the first inning, the Panthers executed a double steal, with Tanner Felton going to second base and Sam Boyd scoring from third on the throw. Williams followed with an RBI single to give Monti an early 2-0 advantage.
The Panthers led 3-0 after Felton tripled and Williams singled him home in the third inning
Then, in the fifth, Monticello scored on a suicide squeeze, with Mason Newhard bunting and Felton scoring from third. Derek Manternach later hit an RBI single to score Williams and put the Panthers ahead 5-0.
Monticello put the game away in the sixth. Michael Reuter had an RBI single, Williams hit a two-run single, Newhard drove in the ninth run with an RBI hit, and Holmes ended his own pitching victory by singling home Williams, ending the game on the 10-run rule.
Holmes struck out seven to post the victory. As a team, the Panthers had 14 hits. Felton finished 2-for-4 with a triple and a double, and Matt Manternach and Holmes had two hits apiece.
“Every guy in the lineup had a hit except (Zach) Monk, and he was asked to sacrifice bunt twice,” Soper said. “Felton continues to hit the cover off the ball, and Williams had a big night.”
Prior to the district win, the Panthers closed their regular season with game three nights in a row.
The first of those was July 8 at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids, home of the Kernels, where the Panthers scored a 6-1 win over Denison-Schleswig.
Holmes pitched all seven innings for the win, striking out nine. Monticello collected 13 hits, led by Felton (3-for-3, two doubles, two RBIs) and Boyd (3-for-4). Derek Manternach and Reuter had two hits apiece.
“To be able to play in a minor league stadium was a great experience for all of our kids,” Soper said. “They had a lot of fun and played extremely well. Defensively we made every play and then some. Derek Manternach made a couple of nice plays at second base.”
Monticello posted another 6-1 win the following night, at home against Bellevue Marquette. This time, Monk pitched all seven innings to pick up the win, and the Panthers had 11 hits. Felton was 3-for-3 with three doubles. Reuter drove in two runs. Matt Manternach and Boyd had two hits apiece.
“Zach Monk had a really nice night,” the coach said. “He pitched extremely well and had a clutch two-out, two-RBI hit to break the game open for us (fourth inning). Tanner Felton stayed hot at the plate as well. We continue to play solid all-around baseball.”
The Panthers had their Senior Night home game July 10, in a 4-1 win over Clayton Ridge/Central. Monticello scored single runs in four separate innings to earn the win, and Newhard was the winning pitcher, with four strikeouts. Matt Manternach and Felton both went 2-for-2 at the plate.
“Playing three nights in a row is a grind, and we didn’t play our best game of the year but we still came out with the win,” Soper said.
The team’s five seniors were honored before the game. They include Zach Monk, Connor Rigby, Sam Boyd, Matt Holmes and Michael Reuter.
The winner of the Monticello-Cascade district semifinal game July 16 will face either Dyersville Beckman or Clayton Ridge/Central in the district finals Saturday, July 20, 7 p.m. in Dyersville.