Playing in Home Talent League playoff games in August has become a regular occurrence for the Montello Granite Jaxx, as they have qualified for the Eastern Section playoffs for a third year in a row.
In the previous two seasons, Montello qualified for the postseason by winning the Eastern Section regular season title. In 2017, the Granite Jaxx won the Eastern Section with a 14-4 record. Montello won the East’s regular season for a second year in a row in 2018, finishing first with a 15-3 record.
The road to a third straight playoff berth wasn’t so easy for the Granite Jaxx. A 10-3 loss to Sun Prairie on June 9 dropped Montello to 2-4 on the season, and another trip to the playoffs appeared to be slipping away.
Since that loss to Sun Prairie, the Granite Jaxx turned things around, rolling off four straight victories, including a sweep of a doubleheader with Portage that got the team back above .500.
Montello’s playoff hopes were still very much in jeopardy following a 6-2 loss at Cottage Grove on July 21, but the Granite Jaxx finished the regular season strong. Needing to win its final three games of the season to advance to the playoffs, Montello did just that, beating Rio, Monona and Columbus down the stretch to finish the regular season tied with DeForest for third place with a 10-6 record.
Montello’s reward for making the playoffs is a trip to Monona to play the Braves in an Eastern Section semifinal on Sunday at 1 p.m.
The Granite Jaxx split their two games with the Braves this season, with each team winning on the other team’s home field. On July 14, Monona ended Montello’s four-game winning streak with an 8-3 win in Montello. The Granite Jaxx took care of business in the rematch, winning 6-5 in Monona on Aug. 2.
In the first game, the Braves pounded out 13 hits against Montello pitchers Carter Daniels and Noah Polcyn and got eight strong innings from Dan Genrich in an 8-3 victory. In that win, Monona blew the game open with a three-run fifth inning, a frame that included a two-run homer by Jordan Carlson that made it 5-1.
When the two teams met in Monona last Friday night, Montello kept its playoff hopes alive with a huge 6-5 win. In the win, Montello starting pitcher Curtis Morgan scattered 13 hits over seven innings of work. When Morgan left the mound, reliever Shane Ryan was called on to nail down the victory. Ryan did just that, striking out the side in the eighth and ninth innings to secure the win.
The key to beating Monona might be keeping the high-powered Braves lineup in check. Nobody scored more runs in the Eastern Section this season then Monona, as the Braves outscored their opponents 157-81 in 16 regular-season games. The 9.8 runs per game for the Braves is an impressive number, even if it is slightly inflated by their 30-3 victory over last-place Columbus on Aug. 1.
Monona’s roster includes five regulars with batting averages north of .300, including Beau Goff, who hit .419 with three home runs. Vince Schmitz has a team-best four home runs and hit .391 for the Braves this summer.
Montello’s pitching staff could be up the task. The 88 runs given up this season is the third-fewest in the Eastern Section.
Montello’s lineup is no slouch, either. The Granite Jaxx could have six players in the starting lineup on Sunday with batting averages above .300, led by Ryan at .455. Noah Polcyn leads Montello with three home runs.
The winner of Sunday’s playoff game in Monona will advance to play against either Sun Prairie or DeForest in the Eastern Section finals on Aug. 18. Montello split its regular-season games with both Sun Prairie and DeForest.