State-ranked rivals battle in Aurora

Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Jonathan Hawkins throws a pitch in the Cubs’ win over Nevada on Friday. Nancy Noll-Meyer/Special to The Monett Times

Cubs take momentum on road against Houn’ Dawgs

Two of the most talented baseball teams in southwest Missouri square off today, as No. 6 Monett (10-1) invades No. 1 Aurora (9-0) in a battle of state-ranked foes.

“We know how good they are,” said Michael Calhoun, Monett coach. “They are undefeated. Our guys grew up playing with their guys, and a lot of them are friends. We know how big of a game this is and we’ll be ready to play.”

The strength of the Houn’ Dawgs rests in a deep and extremely talented pitching staff. In six of the team’s nine wins, they allowed zero runs, including a stretch of 29 consecutive scoreless innings.

“They beat teams by not making mistakes,” Calhoun said. “We’re excited for the opportunity and the chance to go over there and play.”

Heading into today’s matchup, the Cubs are riding a three-game winning streak and are fresh off a Bill O’Dell Tournament title.

Monett avenged its lone loss of the season with a 4-0 victory over a Seneca on Wednesday, then topped Carthage, 2-0, and claimed the tourney title with a 5-1 win over Nevada.

Monett’s pitching was outstanding all tournament long. Blake Spain (3-0) earned the win over the Indians. The sophomore allowed one hit and struck out nine.

As a reward, he will climb the mound against Aurora today. He is the first Cubs player not named Cameron Witt to start against the Houn’ Dawgs in the last two years.

“Aurora has great pitchers, but so do we,” Calhoun said. “Blake is a guy that throws strikes and hits his spots. He won’t be intimidated about who he is facing. I think all of our starters showed that this week.”

Ian Meyer earned the win against the Tigers in Carthage on Thursday, allowing just two hits and striking out six.

“Ian threw basically two pitches all game — fastball and a change-up,” Calhoun said. “He just competes and grinds on batters from the mound.”

The Cubs sent Jonathan Hawkins to pitch in the championship. The senior scattered four hits, allowed zero earned runs and struck out four in seven innings.

“Jonathan has been one of the most reliable arms on our staff for four years,” Calhoun said. “He threw 84 pitches and kept batters off-balance all day.”

With the pitching staff stealing the show at Carthage, there is still one obstacle that the Cubs are dealing with — clutch hitting.

In three games at Carthage, Monett stranded 21 runners, and 12 runners were left on base in the championship game alone.

“On one hand, the problem wasn’t getting men on base,” Calhoun said. “That would mean we have other issues. We need to bear down and drive those runners in. Still, I wouldn’t trade my guys for any team out there right now. I think we have big things that we’ll accomplish before this is all said and done.”

First pitch tonight in Aurora is set for 5 p.m.

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