In non-conference action, the Class 2 Billings Wildcats utilized a six-run second inning to knock off the Class 4 Monett Cubs at home Monday afternoon, 7-5.
CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS
“I told my guys this was a game for us to go out and get ready for districts,” said Billings head coach Allen Stolte. “We needed good competition, and Monett provided us that today. I was proud of the way our guys played tonight.”
After a scoreless first inning, Zack Hammond jumpstarted the second with a double, who would later score off an error to tally up the Cubs’ first run of the game. Cooper Caldwell then followed up with a single to left field. Monett’s No. 1 starting pitcher, Aaron Patton, belted a two-run homerun over the right field fence to help out his cause, grabbing a 3-0 lead.
Sawyer Hawkins would begin the bottom half of inning with a single in effort to create an offensive rally for Billings, but Patton would then strike out two consecutive Wildcat batters.
With two outs, Billings offense caught fire.
Patton faced some control issues after walking three straight, which plated three Billings runs after a crucial Monett error, tying the game, 3-3. With two runners on and two outs, Austin Essick crushed a homerun to right-center, extending the Wildcat’s lead, 6-3.
“It was a 3-0 count and coach gave me the green light,” said Essick. “I’m pretty disciplined at the plate with that count, and coach feels comfortable enough in that situation to go ahead and let me hit. It was an outside pitch and I just tried to take it that way for a base hit, but it just ended up going out.”
Essick has homered in Billings’ last two games, as he leads the Wildcat’s starting lineup with a .429 average.
“Austin’s homerun gave us some momentum at the plate,” said Stolte. “When he gets on a roll, you see our team gain some confidence on the field.”
Monett would retaliate with a run in both the fourth and fifth innings, but Billings would close the deal with a win over the Cubs by a margin of two runs.
“Overall we need to do a better job of getting ahead of hitters. There are a lot of times we are pitching from behind in the count, and against good teams they are going to take advantage of that,” said Stolte. “We also need to improve upon our bunting. We missed some key opportunities during this game, and that has to get better as we head down the line.”
Billings improves their record to 9-8, as the Wildcats clinched the No. 1 seed of their district tournament this past week. They host their last regular season game against Crane May 7 at 4:30 p.m.
“This sets a pretty high standard that we are playing good ball right now,” said Essick. “We’re here to make a statement, that we deserve that No. 1 seed heading into districts.”