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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Cubs claw Patriots in another scoring barrage

Friday, April 30, 2010

Being down 2-1 after one inning sounds like an entertaining and competitive baseball game. Well, yes - and no.

If sustained, such a scoring ratio soon mounts into a lopsided game. After the Patriots of East Newton came to town Thursday night and put up one early, they struggled at the plate until the late innings and fell to the Monett Cubs in six, 17-7.

"We didn't shut the door when we had the chance," said Cubs Coach Michael Calhoun.

Coupled with the output the night before at Springfield Catholic, Monett has touched home 35 times in two games - more dance steps than television shows would have you believe the chosen glittery few take in practice.

Until the Cub offense resumed celebrity appearances at home plate in the fourth inning against East Newton, Andy Hagedorn commanded the game with pitching that often had Patriot hitters in a two-strike hole. His velocity and control drilled East Newton with 10 strikeouts. Eventually, foul-offs created a high pitch count and led to fatigue and wild pitches, but the junior is rapidly becoming a key part of Monett's pitching rotation.

It's a good thing that Hagedorn was holding court. Fielding errors helped create East Newton's first three runs, which occurred in the second, fourth and fifth innings. The Cubs' infield displayed a vulnerability not previously seen this season; factors of gusty winds and a 31-run marathon at Springfield Catholic notwithstanding.

The game was notable on several offensive fronts.

Senior Spenser Witt became the all-time hitting leader for Monett. His 3-for-4 performance at the plate surpassed Brendon Cox with 107 hits in his Cub career.

Central to virtually every scoring situation this year, Witt's presence has grown this year.

"I was more of a role player last season," he explained.

What he thought would be pressure at the plate this year - hasn't materialized.

"It's really surprising," he said, "We're hitting better this year -- with a lot more power."

The strength of Monett's offense has allowed Witt to be more selective than to make something out of nothing to get a young team going.

"Now I can swing at the best pitch I can get."

This unexpected comfort zone has promoted another dimension this year.

Last season, Coach Calhoun broached the subject of returning to the mound. Witt was curious about what he could do as a pitcher, but equal to the decision to throw this year was the steady blue flame of a star athlete willing to advance his team in virtually any fashion required. Being baseball, it's all good to Spenser Witt.

Witt didn't pitch against East Newton, but his increased utility is a vestige of being a role-player last year. Today, he's the leader by age, experience and rock-solid performance.

"I pitched as a youngster and throwing off-speed cracked my elbow growth-plate."

So for the past five years, Witt's taken his gloved talent to the outfield.

"Just like my position in football -- cornerback -- I like being the last line of defense. I love to throw 'em out at the plate."

Contrary to his own view, his long pitching hiatus is rather seamless according to the respect that precedes Witt wherever he plays.

Along with the steady development of Andy Hagedorn, the senior southpaw has become part of the stable of capable arms that increasingly puts Coach Calhoun into a quandary about whom to pitch against certainopponents. Too soon to call it an embarrassment of riches, but with each inning of experience, the Cubs' war chest is further augmented. Jesse Bremer and Marcus McCaffrey are the other starters, and the cushion provided by the offense has spurred third-baseman Marcus Enloe to be groomed in a reliever role.

Against East Newton, it was the other way around. Hagedorn kept the game in check from the mound and Cub batters were free of pressure and went to town. Hitting machine Jake Smith produced every time. His four hits, including a double, put the ball in play and the runs kept coming, like a freight train cooking downhill with excess speed. Got to get home. It's almost dinnertime.

The offensive breakout performance came from freshman second baseman Nicky Roberts. Heretofore a designated hitter stood in for him at the plate, but of late he's been given the chance to show what he can do with a bat and it's paid off. His hit in the bottom of the sixth inning drove in the final score for the ten-run margin to terminate the game early.

Roberts would have gone 4-for-5 for the game had it not been for a diving catch in shallow right field in the second inning.

Along with his strong fielding play this season, young Roberts is becoming a varsity shiner long before he gets the car keys.

Monett is now 9-5 on the year and 4-2 in Big 8 conference play, while East Newton falls to 3-7 and 0-5 in conference.

Barring rain, Monett travels to Republic this afternoon to play the Class 4 team, as the

season marches toward the district playoffs.

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