Turning the corner: Panthers down Beckman in district final, reach sub-state game

Preston Ries of Monticello comes across with a run during the Panthers' district final win over Dyersville Beckman July 18 in Dyersville. (Photo courtesy of Bec Willenborg, Dyersville Commercial)

Brady Cleeton celebrates after hitting an RBI double for Monticello during the district semifinal win over Cascade July 14 in Dyersville. (Photo courtesy of Dylan Kurt, Cascade Pioneer)
Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

     Getting past Dyersville Beckman in postseason baseball play has been a formidable task for many Eastern Iowa teams over the years.

     In order to achieve it, and to end a district losing streak to the mighty Trailblazers that was at least 10 games long, the Monticello Panthers had to look to last season. In the 2019 district final, the Panthers saw an early 7-0 lead disappear in a 16-8 loss.

     On Saturday, July 18, Monticello took a 6-0 lead, and held off the Blazers’ rally to score an historic 6-5 win in Dyersville, advancing to a sub-state game for the first time since 1991.

     Monticello (6-7) was scheduled to play Durant (11-4) in the sub-state game July 21 in Maquoketa, with the winner advancing to the State Class 2A Baseball Tournament.

     Panther coach Kolby Harms said last year’s experience against Beckman proved valuable this time around.

     “Last year was a big help,” Harms said. “Three-fourths of (this) team was there last year, and everyone who was in that spot last year was young. This group isn’t really scared of what it says on the front of their jerseys. We’ve turned that corner.

     The Panthers couldn’t have known it then, but they scored all the runs they would need on this night in the top of the second inning -- six of them.

     It started with a walk to Brady Cleeton. Connor Lambert singled to left field. Jeff Carlson then bunted, and everyone was safe on an errant throw. Dylan Roher walked and Tyler Luensman was hit by a pitch, forcing the first two runs across.

     Beckman made a pitching change, and then Caleb Sauser drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 3-0, still with none out. Tate Petersen then put down a squeeze bunt, scoring courtesy runner Ty Jesenovec, and on the throw to first for the out, Luensman scored from second base as well, giving the Panthers a 5-0 advantage.

     Preston Ries hit into a fielder’s choice, and went to second when the Cougars tagged out the lead runner. Justin Recker followed with an RBI single for the sixth run.

     “We just had good at bats,” Harms said.

     Beckman answered with four runs in the bottom of the third inning. A bases loaded walk and a two-run error accounted for three of those, and another error brought the fourth run home before Roher was able to strike out the next batter for the final out.

     “Dylan got stronger as the game went on,” the coach said.               

     The 6-4 lead for Monticello remained all the way to the seventh inning. The Panthers had some chances to extend the lead, leaving runners on second and third in the fourth inning, and bases loaded in the fifth. Meanwhile, Roher retired six of seven Blazer batters in the fourth and fifth innings. In the sixth, after one out, he was taken out as he was nearing the pitch count limit, and Sauser came on in relief.

     Beckman put two runners on with two out in the sixth, but Sauser struck out the next hitter to keep the two-run lead intact through six.

     After the Panthers went down in order in the top of the seventh, Beckman threatened for a final time. Luke Goedken hit a one-out single to left, and scored on a double by Josh Engler.

     Nick Offerman hit a deep drive to left center, caught by Recker for the second out. Courtesy runner Max Mullis stole third to put the tying run 90 feet away, pinch hitter Trent Koelker walked, and then Koelker stole second with the potential winning run.

     Sauser pitched out of the potential game-turning jam, however, getting the next hitter to hit a soft fly ball into foul territory near third base, which was caught by Ries to end the game.

     Roher pitched 5 ⅓ innings, allowing two earned runs on three hits and striking out four. Sauser worked 1 ⅔ innings, giving up one run on two hits. Recker and Lambert both went 2-for-4 at the plate.

     It all added up to a berth in the sub-state game and a chance for a first-ever trip to the state tournament.

     “I’m super proud of the boys. It’s a great group, and they have worked so hard for it,” Harms said. “This team has been struggling all year to kind of put it together. They made some gutsy plays all night long.”

     Should the Panthers qualify for the state tournament, they would play in a quarterfinal game Monday, July 27 at Principal Park in Des Moines.


     To get to the district final game against Beckman, the Panthers first had to overcome neighboring rival Cascade in the district semifinals July 14, which they did in a 6-3 victory at Beckman.              

     “In a lot of our games, we had too many strikeouts,” Harms said. “This time, we fought off good pitches, put the ball in play and put the pressure on their defense. They had a couple of errors, and we good advantage of it.”

     The Panthers took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Preston Ries drew a two-out walk. Justin Recker followed with a single to right on a hit-and-run play. When the Cascade throw from the outfield missed the cutoff man, Ries was able to score.

     The second Monticello run came in the fourth. Recker reached base on an error, went to third on a single by Brady Cleeton. Cael Sampson came in to run for Cleeton, and took off for second on a delayed double steal, as Recker scored on the throw to second.

     Starting pitcher Dylan Roher had blanked the Cougars through three innings, but Cascade tied the game with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth, on an RBI groundout by Ted Weber and a run-scoring single by Carter Green. The 2-2 score held up through the fifth inning.

     Then the Panthers regained control in the top of the sixth. Recker walked, and Cleeton doubled to center field, scoring Recker. After one out, Jeff Carlson walked, and Monticello loaded the bases on an infield single to the right side by Roher. Tyler Luensman then grounded out to first, and Cleeton was able to score for a 4-2 Monticello lead. Caleb Sauser came on to pitch the sixth inning, and the lead held up through six.

     The Panthers picked up two more big runs in the seventh. Tate Petersen led off with a single to center field, and after one out, Recker singled to left to put runners on first and third. Cleeton then hit an RBI groundout to short, scoring Petersen, and Recker advanced to third. Pinch hitter Grahm Schneiter then reached base on an error, scoring Recker and giving Monticello a 6-2 cushion.

     The Cougars threatened one final time in the seventh, when Jack Menster tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Cade Rausch. But Sauser got the next two batters to fly out to close the game out.

     Roher was the winning pitcher, going five innings and allowing two runs on four hits. He struck out four and walked two. Sauser picked up a save, giving up one run on two hits in two innings of relief.

     Recker finished 2-for-3 at the plate, stole two bases and scored three runs. Cleeton was 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Petersen and Sampson also had one steal apiece.



July 14

Class 2A, District 7


(at Dyersville)

Monticello 6, Cascade 3

MONTICELLO                            AB     R     H     BI

Sauser ss                                      4      0      0      0

Petersen 2b                                   4      1      1      0

Ries 3b                                          3     1      0      1

Recker lf                                        3     3      2      1

Cleeton dh                                     4      1      2      2

Sampson cr                                   0      0      0      0

Gillmore c                                      0      0      0      0

Lambert rf                                      3      0      0      0

Schneiter ph                                  1      0      0      0

Carlson 1b                                     2      0      0      0

Roher p                                          2     0      1      1

Jesenovec cr                                  0      0      0      0

Luensman cf                                   2      0      0      0

Totals                                            28     6      6      5

Monticello                    100  102  2   –    6      6      0

Cascade                      000  200  1   –    3      6      3

LOB – Monticello 6, Cascade 4.

2B – Cleeton.

SB – Recker 2, Petersen, Sampson.

Pitcher                          IP    H    R   ER  BB   SO

Roher (W, 1-0)               5     4     2     2     2      4

Sauser (S, 1)                  2     2     1     1     1      0

Total                               7     6     3     3     3      4


July 18

Class 2A, District 7


(at Dyersville)

Monticello 6, Dy. Beckman 5

MONTICELLO                            AB     R     H     BI

Sauser ss                                      3      0      2      1

Petersen 2b                                   4      0      0      2

Ries 3b                                          3      1      0      0

Recker lf                                        4     0      2      1

Cleeton dh                                     2      1      1      0

Sampson cr                                   0      0      0      0

Gillmore c                                      0      0      0      0

Lambert rf                                      4      1      2      0

Carlson 1b                                     3      1      0      0

Roher p                                          3     0      0      1

Jesenovec cr                                  0      1      0      0

Luensman cf                                  3      1      1      1

TOTALS                                        28     6      8      6

Monticello                    060  000  0   –    6      8      2

Beckman                     004  000  1   –    5      5      1

LOB – Monticello 11, Beckman 8.

2B – Sauser.

SB – Recker.

Pitcher                              IP    H     R   ER  BB   SO

Roher (W, 2-0)                 5.1    3      4     2     3     4

Sauser (S, 2)                    1.2    2      1     1     2     1

Total                                  7      5      5     3     5     5




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