The train that is the Monticello Polecats just keeps rolling down the tracks this summer. The ‘Cats continue to run over opponents by the night, racking up wins weekly, as they now stand at 14-2 overall and 9-0 in league play.
Their most impressive win to date came Friday night, thanks to the brilliance of Nick Zwack.
The 2017 MHS graduate, fresh off dazzling the crowd at the high school all star series a couple weeks prior, turned in arguably the best pitching performance of his career on Friday. The tall lefty no-hit the powerhouse St. Michael Saints, helping lead Monti to a thrilling 1-0 victory and a 2-0 start in the three-game regular season series.
Zwack struck out 13 batters in the nine-inning contest, while walking four.
“We knew he was a good pitcher, but he showed us how good he was on Friday,” said Gary Revenig, Polecats manager. “It was something special to watch.”
And it was needed. In the battle between the top two teams in the Central Ridge League, Monti wasn’t able to find much more offense. In fact, the game remained scoreless through seven full innings. Then, in the bottom of the eighth, Monti struck.
Michael Revenig started the rally with a seemingly harmless two-out single. He advanced to second when Aaron Hanson, currently sporting a .412 batting average, drew a walk. Then with two strikes and the runners on the move, Tanner Eckhart smashed a ball at the second basemen. With Hanson running through his vision, the second-baseman had the ball bound by him and into the outfield, allowing Revenig to come around and score the go-ahead run.
The Saints threatened in the ninth, as a baserunner reached on a walk then advanced all the way to third on two wild pitches. But with two outs and a full count Zwack was able to put one past the Saints next hitter to close the door on a historic performance and a huge win.
“We know they’re the team we’ve gotta try to beat in our division,” said Revenig, in reference to the Saints, last year’s league champion. “To get the first two against them is huge.”
Hanson caught the game, and Revenig said was a big factor in helping Zwack achieve the no-no.
“He did an outstanding job calling the game,” said Revenig.
Zwack threw 116 pitches on the night.
“He was lights out,” said Revenig. “Just an outstanding effort.”
Monti backed up the key victory by sweeping a double-header with Ramsey on Sunday afternoon. Monti snuck past Ramsey 3-1 in the first game before walking to a 16-1 victory in the second half of the twin-bill.
Michael Revenig threw a two-hit complete game in the first seven-inning contest, allowing just one unearned run and striking out eight batters. But it was almost for naught as Monti was held scoreless until the sixth inning.
Then, with one out and two on, David Burkholder came through in the clutch. The baseball veteran drove a ball to the outfield to bring in two runs and give the ‘Cats a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. It was one of two hits in the game for Burkholder, who joined the team this year after a few years off.
“He just stays back and hits line drives,” said Revenig. “He’s been a really nice addition.”
Following Burkholder’s hit, Ramsey issued an intentional walk to Michael Olson, who has continued to tear the cover off the ball for the ‘Cats.
With two runners on, Michael Revenig came through to deliver a run-scoring base hit and provide an insurance run for the ‘Cats.
“It’s nice to know that when they [walk Olson], we can make them pay,” said Gary Revenig, noting it’s a strategy more teams may opt for with the reputation Olson is gaining.
The second game was all Monticello. Revenig said that Ramsey ran out of pitching after playing doubleheaders on consecutive days, and Monti was the beneficiary. The ‘Cats drew a ton of walks in the game as they cruised to a five-inning victory. Tanner Eckhart earned the win, throwing four innings and allowing one run while Jake Kounkel added a scoreless inning of relief.
Earlier in the week, the Polecats added a 19-4 victory against Team Maxbat.
Revenig said that through 16 games, this certainly appears to be the strongest team he’s had yet in his three-year tenure with the Polecats.
While the lineup has been clicking recently, including a surging Greg Holker, Revenig said pitching is still the engine that drives Monti’s success.
“It’s our depth,” he said. “Whoever we bring in, we know they’re going to excel.”
With six games left in the regular season, Monti is not yet in position to let up off the gas. The Polecats have at least a two-game lead on the Saints, plus the tiebreaker, but they want to make sure they close the door on the league title in the next two weeks. If they can do that, they’ll earn a bye in the first round of the playoffs. Revenig said that’s extremely valuable and something the ‘Cats are definitely trying to attain.
The next step for Monticello comes Friday night, when the Polecats host a game vs. Big Lake. That contest is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. Monti will also be home Sunday, as they host a doubleheader with Rogers beginning at 2 p.m.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]