The title puts the Cubs into the sectional playoffs on Tuesday against another Big 8 Conference team, powerhouse Carl Junction, last year's state runner-up.
The Cubs, 16-6, are now one win away from making history. A victory at sectionals would set a new benchmark for the school's baseball program. At that point, it's three wins to a state title.
But first things first.
|After defeating Aurora and Forsyth, second-seeded Monett faced Bolivar for the district title.|
The upstart Liberators had knocked off the top-seeded Cassville Wildcats in the semifinals, 5-4. A fourth-seed, losing six of seven games going into the district tournament, Bolivar's win over Cassville was the only game they won all year when they hadn't scored first. Twice they spotted the state-rated Wildcats a lead of two runs, then in the sixth inning with two outs, the Liberators sprung a three-run jack-in-the-box.
Bolivar carried the momentum into the title game against Monett by going up 4-0 in the second inning.
With a capable defense, potent offense and a quartet of decent pitchers, it's a subjective call for Cub Coach Michael Calhoun in deciding whom to put on the mound.
Against Bolivar, promising fastballer Andy Hagedorn was enlisted, but the Liberators were sliced enough seams to generate early offense.
With the season on the line, Calhoun was out of cushion and on came Spenser Witt in relief. The senior lefty, one of two unanimous All-Big 8 selections, corked Bolivar's run production long enough for the Cubs to gain some offensive footing.
|Coach Calhoun told his troops to swing away, but a series of bloopers in the second and third innings spontaneously created a small-ball game and the team had hooks in Bolivar at 4-2.|
Little did the Liberators know that their fruitless fourth inning - when they loaded the bases but didn't score - was the least of the trouble to come.
The lid came off the game in the bottom of the inning; another Cub exhibition of scoring that could only be compared to staying on the roller coaster all afternoon with heaps of cotton candy sloshing around inside. Sweet and sticky and a tad dangerous for the folks seated behind.
Colten Phillips' soft hit got it going - and it was to be the last hint of small-ball this game. The chain of helter skelter offense was set to go off, akin to the clicking sound of the coaster's gears approaching the crest before the plunge.
Once Marcus McCaffrey drove one to centerfield, the Cubs' cascade spewed a confection of runs all over the place. Thirteen batters tore through three Bolivar pitchers. Hits, sacrifice flies, errors, wild pitches, and triples by Hagedorn and Jesse Bremer racked up 9 runs.
"Like countless situations before, our guys came through," said Coach Calhoun.
Bolivar's display of tenacity a day earlier against Cassville was still in evidence, as they put up a few more runs before succumbing 13-7.
Once again, a defeated team approximated Monett's hit production (nine for Monett, eight for Bolivar), but it was errors that proved costly. Monett had two to Bolivar's four.
Before a modest crowd on a perfectly warm baseball evening, closer Marcus McCaffrey dispatched the final Liberators, and the Cubs erupted into a championship celebration near the mound.
After the handshake line with Bolivar, tournament plaques were presented and the cameras came out to mark a regional championship, the third time in four years that Monett has played for it.
On Tuesday, the team moves up to the sectionals at Carl Junction. The Bulldogs beat Nevada in District 12 and are now 18-6 on the season, including a 5-2 victory at home over Monett a month ago. The sectional game begins at 5 p.m.