In the opening game of Big 8 Conference play, Monett Cubs catcher Jake Smith's double in the bottom of the ninth inning drove in Marcus Enloe, defeating the Mt. Vernon Mountaineers 7-6 on Tuesday night.
The Cubs carried a swagger into the tilt that was both bane and benefit. Runner-up success at the Bill O'Dell Tournament in Carthage last week created an air of team satisfaction.
Three hitless innings later, Mountaineer senior pitcher Josh Engler destroyed some of Monett's confidence.
"Engler did well -- throwing double-digit strikeouts," said Cubs Coach Michael Calhoun. "We scrapped by enough to stay in the game and made one more play than they did to win it."
Backed by error-free fielding and a nine-hit offense, Engler got plenty of help. He also held the confidence of his coach and went major league distance, giving up seven hits in a 124-pitch feat.
Cubs hurler Marcus McCaffery, by contrast, navigated an avalanche of five errors and a troop of Mountaineer base runners. He stranded 11, but Mt. Vernon drew first blood in the third with three hits and a walk to go up 2-0.
Monett got going an inning later with the clutch leadership of Spenser Witt. His leadoff double spawned the first of two runs, and the contest was reset for inning five at 2-2.
When Mt. Vernon again pushed ahead -- helped by an error - the Cubs responded, rat-a-tat-tat, three hits spelled 3 runs, helped home by a fourth hit, Marcus Enloe's double.
Sacrifice batters in the sixth moved Chris Trout around for another score, and the Cubs had leapfrogged ahead, 6-3.
A Mountaineer hit, walk and double in the seventh inning was trouble for pitcher McCaffrey, so Witt relieved him and the game was reset once more, at 6-6.
This is when the benefit of tournament success shone value. The fruit of the game was ripe for the picking, and the Cubs weren't going to be denied.
"We thought if we could just get one more inning, we'd win," said Mt. Vernon Coach Nick Swillum, whose team is now 4-6 overall and 0-1 conference.
|But his bats went silent as the game ran past two-and-a-half hours.|
Monett's resolve required but two batters in the bottom of the ninth. Marcus Enloe became the winning run by getting on with a walk. Jake Smith's scoring hit broke the back-and-forth match of similar teams.
Both clubs are young, hungry and looking to pile on team strengths to masque the gap of varsity inexperience.
Monett is 4-3 and 1-0. They travel to Lamar on Thursday.