By Matt Turer — @MattTurer
Rogersville, Mo. — With his team celebrating on the bus behind him, Ty Goetz knew it was a trio of early defeats that prepared his Cubs for a season that now has them within a win of state.
Losses to Class 4 Republic, Webb City and Kickapoo by a combined five runs, with two being one-run games, pitted Monett with an early 1-3 record. But those losses taught Monett two things: that they can compete with some of the best in Class 4, and how to win close games.
Monett (19-10) scored four runs over the final two frames Wednesday, beating Logan-Rogersville 7-3 in a Class 3 sectionals matchup behind four hits and three RBIs by Maddi Coones and a complete game from Josie Allcock.
“I’ve liked this team all year,” Goetz said. “Early in the year we were playing some good teams and couldn’t find a way to win a close game, and that’s only helped us from here on out. Being able to close out games like this is big for us, and that’s because of our early schedule.”
The Cubs haven’t lost two straight non-tournament games since those three early losses and now have their first chance at a state berth since 2014 when they host last year’s state runner-up Sullivan (27-2) on Saturday.
“I’m so excited,” Coones said. “It’s so fun being around this team. I just wanted to win this game and get to the next one and put us one win away from state.”
Coones hit .386 during the season but never had more than two hits in a game. Her sixth-inning single drove home Katie Kurima, who’d tripled to lead off the inning, and gave the Cubs the lead for good at 4-3.
“A girl hitting like that in the two-hole for us, she’s been lights out the last two weeks. She can do everything, whether it’s laying one down for a bunt single or smoking one down the line,” Goetz said of Coones.
After Coones singled in the sixth, Kelli McCallister bunted her to second, Allcock was hit by a Hunter Bledsoe pitch and Ashley Kurima struck out. With two outs, Kassie McCallister doubled to the wall in left, driving in Coones and Allcock.
In the seventh, Coones delivered again with an RBI single that drove in Kaesha George, putting the Cubs up by the 7-3 final.
“We discussed in the dugout early that we have to find a way to score runs when we have the chances, and we did that in the sixth and seventh innings,” Goetz said.
Monett left the bases loaded in the first and second inning, coming out of that stretch with a 3-2 lead.
The Cubs stranded eight in scoring position for the game.
Rogersville (18-11) had opportunities but left six in scoring position and had two runners gunned out at home.
George threw a rope in the second to throw Taylor Williams out at the plate while trying to score on an Angie Coambes single that had already scored Julia Marshall, preserving Monett’s 3-2 lead at the time.
In the fourth, Lori Vedder was thrown out at home by Kassie McCallister when Lindsay Schatzer grounded to the second baseman with the bases loaded and one out.
Coambes scored in the fourth on a Shelby Ince sacrifice fly to right, tying the game 3-3. The Wildcats only getting one run from a bases loaded, zero out situation was painful.
“We didn’t get a big hit when we needed with runners on early in the game,” Wildcats coach Denny McHenry said. “You’ve got to get a big hit against teams like this at those times. Because you know they’re going to score some runs.”
Hunter Bledsoe allowed four earned runs over 6.2 innings for Rogersville, striking out six. She was relieved by Julia Marshall for the final out of the seventh.
“We didn’t play our best game, but I’m not ashamed of how we played. But you’ve got to play error-free at this time of year, and we didn’t do that. And you’ve got to get a big hit or two when you need to, and we didn’t do that,” McHenry said.
A CHANCE AT STATE
The Cubs are the only remaining southwest Missouri program in the Class 3 tournament. They share mutual opponents with Sullivan in Branson and Rolla. Monett beat Branson 6-4 and Rolla 6-0. Sullivan beat Branson 2-1 and Rolla 14-3.
A MEMORABLE FOUR YEARS
Seven Wildcat seniors graduate and represent a four-year stretch of softball that was the winningest in program history and included two district championships.
“It’s tough to watch seven seniors go when they’ve been a part of your life since before high school,” McHenry said.
LRHS |1|1|0|1|0|0|0| — |3|9|2|
MHS |0|3|0|0|0|3|1| — |7|9|1|
Wildcats – Bottom 1st
Paige Leithead singled to center, Shelby Ince scored. — LRHS 1, MHS 0
Cubs – Top 2nd
Maddi Coones doubled to center, Katie Schmidt scored. — MHS 1, LRHS 1
Kelli McCallister singled to left, Kaesha George and Coones scored. — MHS 3, LRHS 1
Wildcats – Bottom 2nd
Angie Coambes singled, Julia Marshall scored. — MHS 3, LRHS 2
Wildcats – Bottom 4th
Shelby Ince hit a sacrifice fly to right, Coambes scored. — MHS 3, LRHS 3
Cubs – Top 6th
Coones singled to third, Katie Kurima scored. — MHS 4, LRHS 3
Kassie McCallister doubled to left, Coones and Josie Allcock scored. — MHS 6, LRHS 3
Cubs – Top 7th
Coones singled to right, George scored. — MHS 7, LRHS 3