That this game wasn’t about the weather was remarkable and more on that later, but Monticello and Woodgrove met last year in the Region II tournament with the Mustangs coming out on top in what was nothing short of a classic, a tight 11 inning came decided on a wild pitch. The rematch this year featured a Mustang team back mostly intact and a Wolverines squad that lost all but three players but have thrived on the play of its junior class. This time around the wild pitch was in Woodgrove’s favor. And three of them and an error, all in the sixth inning spoiled a great start for Monticello and opened the door for the Wolverines to go on to a 10-4 win.
“A couple of breaks fell our way with balls getting by and once it started it sort of dog piled,” said Wolverines coach Brad Bauder. “We got some bloop hits on some good pitches they threw. That’s baseball though. We were holding off, it made me worried we waited so long to do it, but we got a big win here that was a long time in the waiting.”
Behind the pitching of staff ace Josh Malm and a 2-run single from senior Max Mann in the third inning, the Mustangs had a 2-0 lead going into the top of the sixth.
“We knew what we were facing (in Malm), a righty that throws three pitches for strikes and a guy who doesn’t overpower, but can and knows how when he needs to,” Bauder said. “He’s got some good velocity and we had some good at bats but they made some plays. We made some plays on defense too to help keep with the momentum until we got going at the end.”
But when Malm came out after 5 and third innings on just under 100 pitches, the Wolverines took advantage of the mistakes they were given.
A slew of walks paired with the first two wild pitches, both times with the bases loaded allowed Woodgrove to tie the game. A third wild pitch followed by a throwing error on the same play gave the Wolverines a 4-3 lead. A 2-run blast from Matt Jeffry and an RBI single from Hazen Dean made it suddenly 7-2 for the visitors.
“Those hits at the end took a lot pressure off me,” Jeffry, who was on the mound for the last four innings, said of his homer. “If we didn’t score those runs it would have been battle, battle, battle in the seventh. It changed the game.”
The seventh saw Woodgrove pad its lead to 10-2 on a double, single, three walks and a sacrifice fly. But down to it’s last three outs, Monticello’s senior class led by Will Decker and Mann, did what it has so many times this year and last and scrap together one last rally to make things interesting.
“I’m very proud of the seniors, what they’ve accomplished in their careers here,” said Monticello coach Corey Hunt. “Nothing defines (these seniors) more than their last at bats right there. It’s hard having success in this game, it’s challenging and that’s why so many people play it. To keep getting up and to keep swinging and to keep fighting and to go down fighting, to go down swinging is the way that I want these young men to grow up and to carry on from here. And I know they’ll be able to do that.”
Decker and Mann both drew walks and an Alex McNair single set up RBI singles from Malm and Nate Fox making it 10-4 with one out. But Jeffry, who was brilliant in relief for Woodgrove and saw his fastball blow by batters much of the game, closed the door with back-to-back strikeouts to stymie the Monticello rally and wrap up the win.
“I was just thinking to get ground ball and strike people out, stay within my game,” Jeffry said. “If I was overthrowing I was trying to stay low, not let the score dictate how my game ends. Just stay in there and throw fastballs.”
With an unreal isolated rain and hail storm rolling through just the Monticello area 15 minutes before the scheduled first pitch, the possibility of playing the game seemed unlikely at 6 p.m. Woodgrove faced a long two hour-plus drive back home only to have to do the same to come down again on Wednesday but the Mustangs coaching staff, Monitcello parents and volunteers literally rolled up their pants to their knees, took the field bare foot and raked it, carted off wheelbarrow’s of mud and carted in dry dirt. The two hours worth of work turned a mud pit back into playable conditions, despite a cruel but laughable moment when the outfield sprinkler system suddenly went off just minutes before the first pitch. In the end, field conditions went unmentioned by both staffs, the ultimate compliment to the work of the impromptu grounds crew.
“Without their help we don’t play this game tonight,” Hunt said. “I want to thank those guys for the effort they put in. I’m very humble that I can get that help when I need it. I know people are there to support the players, the team when I need it and it really showed tonight.”
Woodgrove moves on to face Potomac Falls on the road on Thursday in the Region II semifinals on Thursday.
Monticello, having made the Region II tournament a third straight year and the second year in a row getting to at least the quarterfinals, ends its season.