MONTELLO — In the opening two innings, Montello had prime opportunities to score runs in its Home Talent League Eastern Section semifinal game against Monona, but failed to get the big hit each time.
Failing in the clutch wasn’t a problem the rest of the afternoon for the Granite Jaxx. They finally broke through with five runs in the third inning, and then scored at least one run in every inning that followed, cruising to an 11-2 victory over the Braves on Sunday afternoon.
With the win —
Montello’s first playoff win in team history — the Granite Jaxx advance to play the Portage Skeeters in the Eastern Section final next Sunday in Montello.
Montello’s big five-run third inning put all the momentum in the Granite Jaxx dugout.
“We were knocking at the door ; we just had to open that door up,” Montello manager Mark Hanson said. “Then in the third inning, we finally busted that door open.”
The first five batters of the third inning all reached on base hits. The fifth of those hits came from DJ Raasch, who came up with the bases loaded and sliced a double to the corner in right field, scoring all three runners to give Montello a 4-2 lead. Raasch scored later in the inning to give Montello a 5-2 advantage.
From there, Montello ace Curtis Morgan went to work, giving up just three hits in the fourth through seventh innings, keeping the Braves off the board. Morgan gave up two runs on seven hits, while walking nobody and striking out three before leaving the mound to begin the eighth inning.
Morgan also had a big game at the plate, collecting four hits, including a pair of doubles to help pace Montello’s 19-hit attack.
“He’s not only been our starter on the mound on Sundays, but he’s also been our No. 3 hitter all year and he’s had an outstanding year at the plate too,” Hanson said. “He’s been (batting) .400 pretty much the whole year and I think with today, he’s probably going to end up over .400 for the season.”
Morgan’s RBI double in the fourth gave Montello a 6-2 lead. The Granite Jaxx then made it 7-2 in the fifth on Carter Daniels’ RBI single.
Nick Uhen’s sacrifice fly in the sixth made it an 8-2 game, and Mitchell Susa’s groundout in the seventh scored Hunter Lehman to make it 9-2. Montello added a pair of unearned runs in the eighth when the Braves committed three errors.
Hanson said it was important that his team did not just sit on its lead after going in front in the third.
“We talked about getting the leadoff guy on so we can do some things, put them in scoring position, and we did that the rest of the game,” Hanson said. “Every inning, we were just getting a single run to keep tacking on to that lead, not letting them back in it.”
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The game didn’t get off to a great start for Montello. After the Braves took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on a Vince Schmitz sacrifice fly, the Granite Jaxx had runners on second and third with just one out in the bottom of the inning, but failed to score.
Then in the second, Montello stranded a runner on third when Daniels flew out to left field.
The Braves would go up 2-0 on Taylor Carlson’s RBI double in the top of the third, but Montello would answer with five runs in the home half of the frame, and never looked back from there.
Montello was playing without normal leadoff man Matt Sosinsky, but Daniels was an adequate replacement at the top of the order, collecting three hits and driving in one.
“He’s another very good No. 1 hitter,” Hanson said of Daniles. “He can slide into that leadoff spot pretty easy.”
Montello will now get ready to host Portage in the Eastern Section final on Sunday. The winner of that game will represent the Eastern Section in the Home Talent League’s Final Four.
Portage and Montello split their two regular season meetings. Hanson knows runs will likely be at premium if Portage ace Colyn Buss is on the mound.
“Buss is an excellent pitcher. He moves the ball around, has excellent control, so it’s just being very patient at the plate,” Hanson said. “We know he’s going to throw strikes, so it’s just not swinging at stuff when he’s trying to waste a pitch.”
MONTELLO 11, MONONA 2
Monona 101 000 000 - 2 9 4
Montello 005 111 12X - 11 19 0
Pitchers: Monona – Swanson (L, 3-10-5-1-2), Schmidt (3.2-7-3-0-0), Najacht (1.1-2-0-0-0). Montello – Morgan (W, 7-7-2-0-3), Daniels (2-2-0-0-4).
Leading hitters – Monona: Joseph 2x4, Carlson 2x4. 2B – Joseph, Carlson, McConkey. Montello: Daniels 3x6, Morgan 4x5, Uhen 2x4, Raasch 2x5, Lehman 3x5, Nick Polcyn 2x4. 2B – Susa, Morgan 2, Raasch.