REPUBLIC -- On a warm and windy Wednesday afternoon at Barnhouse Field, the Monett Cubs appeared at the Republic Tournament to play the host in the last regular season game before the district playoffs begin Saturday.
The Cubs fell 6-4 in a muted effort on senior day for the Republic Tigers.
For six innings, Monett's bats were largely silent against Tiger sidearm pitcher Blaze Carano.
On the other side of the equation, a Republic team of all seniors (13) came out swinging in the first inning, making all kinds of contact against Monett's single senior, pitcher Spenser Witt. The Tigers' fruitless assault, after loading the bases, well defines a confounding season.
The nonconference game represented much about the unmet potential of both teams. At 10-9 on the year, the highly experienced Republic team is struggling.
"We've had as tough a schedule as you can possibly have," said Coach Howard Quigley, of Republic.
A junior-driven 16-6 campaign last year hasn't blossomed into senior-laden Tiger success this year, as the team regroups for districts.
"This is been a hard-luck season for us," admitted Quigley, who won a state title at Billings and coached Michael Calhoun when the Cubs' coach was a prepster at Aurora.
If the win for Republic was tortured, the loss for Monett was another test at the divide between being a very capable team that thrives on offensive force - but shy of being the exceptional team that can execute when a narrow contest is on the line.
Five innings in, and only one run had scored. Advantage Tigers.
A Marcus Enloe bunt and the trusty bat of Jake Smith evened the game in the sixth for Monett.
|In the bottom of the sixth inning, Republic hit a grand slam to surge ahead 6-1.|
Monett then came to life with just three outs left in the bank. After chasing bad pitches all game long, patience was the new approach and Marcus McCaffrey's leadoff walk in the seventh set the tone. Unable to find decent strike zone meat, Monett batters quit flailing and began walking. Tiger pitcher Carano's fatigue also gave Witt and Doug Aldridge a pass.
Republic then brought on Brock Robbins in relief, who had no better luck finding the strike zone. With the runner's lodge filled up, Enloe was able to mollify his troubled pitching relief role with a walk of his own, giving the Cubs their second run of the game.
The bases-loaded carousel continued to turn, as Jake Smith and Colten Phillips followed suit and two more Cubs walked home, making the score 6-4.
The easy pass method wasn't going to earn victory, however. What's fueled this winning season for Monett went missing to the end -- a timely hit. With the bases loaded, the game fizzled away on strikeouts.
Monett had four hits and two errors. Republic had seven hits and two errors.
The Cubs are now 13-6 on the season and play host Aurora in the district playoffs on Saturday at 4 p.m.