PHOTO: Monticello senior pitcher Erin Hosch delivers during the Panthers’ seventh-place game victory over East Marshall during the state tournament July 24 in Fort Dodge. (Photo by Pete Temple)
By Pete Temple, Express Sports Editor
The first-ever state tournament season for the Monticello Panthers ended with a pair of games in the consolation bracket of the State Class 3A Softball Tournament Wednesday, July 24 at Rogers Park in Fort Dodge.
Following the July 22 quarterfinal loss to Bondurant-Farrar, the Panthers fell 11-5 to Estherville-Lincoln Central on Wednesday morning, but bounced back with a dramatic 7-6 win over East Marshall to secure a seventh place finish.
“It’s got to come to an end, but at least you get to be one of four teams to go out on a win. Only four teams in the whole state (in Class 3A) get to say that,” Monticello coach Tiffany Rave said.
Once a team loses in the quarterfinal round and falls into the consolation bracket, the best it can do is win twice and finish in fifth place overall.
The Panthers, at two points in the consolation semifinal game against Estherville-Lincoln Central Wednesday, appeared poised to do just that.
Monticello jumped to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning. Allison Kraus singled into left field, and was sacrificed to second by Kori Bohlken.
Paxtyn Keleher followed with an RBI double, scoring Kraus. Erin Hosch then drove in Keleher with a single to right field, and went to second when the throw came home. Jacqueline Petersen then came in as a courtesy runner for Hosch.
After two were out, Andrea Bone singled to score Petersen and give the Panthers a 3-0 lead.
“I felt like we were very normal,” Rave said. “We were relaxed, the girls were having fun before the game, we were playing our style of softball on offense and on defense, and Erin did a nice job pitching.”
E-LC came back with three runs of its own in the top of the fourth, on three hits and an error.
Monticello inched back into the lead, scoring in the bottom of the fourth on a single by Keleher, a sacrifice by Hosch and a single by Bone.
In the fifth, the Panthers took a 5-3 lead with another run. Lael Lubben was hit by a pitch, and went to second on a sacrifice by Allison Kraus. Bohlken walked, and Keleher followed with an RBI single.
E-LC came back again, during an inning reminiscent of the second inning against Bondurant-Farrar two days earlier. The Midgets wound up scoring eight runs on seven hits, executing a successful squeeze bunt and taking advantage of two Panther errors.
When the inning was over, the Midgets had taken an 11-5 lead. They added another run in the seven. E-LC pitcher Elizabeth Brashear then retired six of the final seven Panther batters to seal the win.
“We just had that one inning,” Rave said. “That is the difference at the state tournament, you’re facing nine good batters. Unfortunately, they were able to string together that momentum, and we had one or two errors in there too.
“Overall, minus that one inning, I thought we played good softball.”
Keleher finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs, and Bone was 2-for-3, also with two RBIs. Hosch pitched most of the game taking the loss, and shared pitching duties with Hannah Thompson in the sixth inning.
The drama of Monticello’s seventh place game against East Marshall Wednesday afternoon more than made up for the pair of six-run losses the Panthers suffered in their first two State games.
The Panthers won the see-saw battle 7-6 in the bottom of the eighth inning when Erin Hosch delivered a walkoff single to left field, bringing home Allison Kraus with the winning run.
There was plenty of excitement before that, as the teams took turns gaining momentum.
Monticello took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Sonya McCormick led off with a walk. Kennedy Kraus then attempted a sacrifice, but reached base safely on an error. Lael Lubben then executed a sacrifice bunt, advancing McCormick to third and Kennedy Kraus to second.
Allison Kraus then singled to left, scoring McCormick. After a second out, Keleher singled to left to score Kennedy Kraus, and Allison Kraus also scored after the ball got by the left fielder.
“I thought we hit the ball hard and made things happen,” Rave said.
Neither team scored again until the top of the fourth, when East Marshall tied the score with a three-run inning. There were three hits and two Panther errors during that frame.
The Panthers answered with three in the bottom of the fifth. McCormick was hit by a pitch, Kennedy Kraus walked, and a sacrifice by Lubben moved both runners up.
Allison Kraus then walked, but McCormick was able to score when the pitch got by the catcher. Bohlken followed with RBI double to the left field fence, scoring both Allison Kraus. Keleher then singled home Bohlken, and the Panthers led 6-3.
Again, the Mustangs came back. Maria Fritz hit a two-run single in the top of the sixth to cut the margin to 6-5.
Then, in the seventh, Callie Roseland hit a two-out, RBI double to tie the score 6-6. When Monticello was unable to score in the bottom half, the game went to extra innings.
“That was a little momentum swing for them, for sure,” Rave said. “I knew if we got out of that we’d be all right, though. The girls were hitting the ball, and usually when we get a runner in scoring position, we’re able to get them in.”
At State, the “international tie-breaker” rule goes into effect. Each team gets to start the inning with a runner on second base.
East Marshall was unable to take advantage. A sacrifice moved runner Bobbi Ament to third. A grounder to Hosch turned into a double play when Bohlken stepped on first and then threw home to catcher Lubben, who tagged out Ament trying to score.
That brought the Panthers up with a chance to win the game. Allison Kraus was placed on second to start the inning. After one out, Kraus advanced to third on a fly out to center field by Keleher.
“That was huge for us,” Rave said of Kraus’ tag. “Otherwise you have a runner on second, and with a base hit, that can go either way.”
Hosch stepped in, and singled through the left side, bringing Kraus across with the game-winning run.
Keleher finished that game 2-for-4 with three RBIs. Allison Kraus scored three runs, and McCormick scored two. Hosch pitched all eight innings for the win, striking out five.
Monticello ended its season with a 32-8 record, that included its third straight Tri-Rivers Conference championship and first-ever State appearance.
“This group of seniors will definitely be missed,” Rave said. “Without them, we wouldn’t have gotten where we were.
“It was also a great experience for those underclassmen They’ve got something to work toward. That had a little taste of it now, and know what it takes.”
Rave said she hopes the girls will always remember the fun they had making it to Fort Dodge for the first time.
“That’s what it’s all about, having fun, enjoying the moment, and getting to do all the fun stuff that comes along with it. They had a good time,” she said.
“It was an awesome experience for the girls. And very well-deserved.”